Tag: African Art

ART: Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Stunning Ballpoint Imagery Explores Blackness and The Power Of Ink

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Mineral Survey, 2015. Marker and pencil on paper. 14 x 17 inches (paper).

In the practical world, there are myriad shades of black.  For artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, this quandary doesn’t frustrate: It inspires.

In an August 2013 interview, the Nigerian-American portraitist recalled a moment of revelation: “I’m doing black on black on black, trying to make it as layered as possible in the deepness of the blackness to bring it out. I noticed the pen became this incredible tool. The black ballpoint ink on blackboard would become copper tone and I was like, ‘Wow, this isn’t even black at all!'”

Layering shades and types of black media, she realized, could bend how the colors presented in surprising ways. “The blackboard was like this balancing platform for the ink to become something else,” she said.

“Ballpoint pen ink is the reason I draw the way that I do,” Ojih Odutola told The Huffington Post via email. Though in the past decade of work she’s incorporated other media such as charcoal and marker into her repertoire, she’s continued to explore the themes of skin, blackness and perception in her portraiture.

“Growing up in America as a black individual,” said Ojih Odutola, who was born in Ife, Nigeria, and later moved to the U.S., “you can walk into any room and your skin is the first read. From this reality, I treat the skin of my subjects as an arena to expose contradictions — to expand and constrict.”

Her portraits, whether of white or black subjects, layer white on white and black on black, bringing out the texture and sheen of the skin rather than the shade or color we might typically perceive. “I build and build upon the surface various striations in layers,” said Ojih Odutola. “Some may describe them as anatomical, sinewy or aesthetically reminiscent of hair. This style is none of those things: it’s about texture, tactility and mezzanines.”

What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies? Toyin Ojih Odutola

By distorting the representation of a quality that silently governs so much of America’s social prejudices and injustices — skin color — her work pushes us to look at everything else about the subject.

“I became infatuated with this idea of filtering and transforming. Taking something concrete and very direct … and messing it up,” she explained. “It wasn’t about masking the source, but about stretching how an image can be transformed, what it can become, how it can be misleading and also revealing.”

Ojih Odutola found she wanted to question, more and more, how her work deconstructed our default views of identity, she said. She’d ask herself as she worked, “What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies?”

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Unlike classical portraits, Ojih Odutola’s may not even be recognizable to the subjects. “I never looked at portraits as indicative of the sitters in any way,” she explained. “I looked at portraits as a means for the artist to create his or her own space to invent.” As a Nigerian-American immigrant, finding a space of her own has been particularly vital. “It helps me deal with that lost, powerless feeling of wandering around as a Nigerian-American kid not feeling like the ground I was stepping on could truly be mine … I wanted to create my own terrain.”

In the landscapes she’s created of her subjects’ very skin, Ojih Odutola has succeeded at creating her own terrain; but more than that, she’s found a way to help us all, slowly and deliberately, re-envision how we can see each other’s faces and bodies, without easy categorizations.

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s “Of Context and Without” will be on display from Dec. 11, 2015 through Jan. 30, 2016 at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City. Check out more from the show below, and find more from the artist at her website.

article by Claire Fallon via huffingtonpost.com

Black Victorian Photos Exhibit “Black Chronicles II” at Harvard University’s Cooper Gallery Through December


“We are not what we seem.” When the iconic novelist Richard Wright wrote those words, in 1940, he was describing the African-American experience. As a stunning new exhibit at Harvard University’s Ethelbert Cooper Gallery shows, the complexity of seeing and identity took its own twists on the other side of the Atlantic when the relatively new art of photography began producing images of people of color in Victorian England.

In more than 100 photographs, including a striking set that has been lost for more than 120 years, “Black Chronicles II” reveals a mash-up of racist imagery and cultural tropes that in many ways will be familiar to American viewers — and still often reveals the timeless humanity of the subjects.

Current issues of cultural identity and self-determination are at the fore of the exhibit, says gallery executive director Vera Grant, although the works themselves were largely made from 1862 to 1899. Curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy of the London-based arts agency Autograph ABP, “Black Chronicles II” was produced through original research in private collections in the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Hulton Archive, London, a division of Getty Images. Part of a larger ongoing project called “The Missing Chapter,” it is the second in a series of exhibitions dedicated to excavating archives that began in 2011 with a small showcase done in collaboration with Magnum Photos in London.

570-Black_Peter Jackson Photo Hi

Despite the anonymity of many of its subjects (research is ongoing), “Black Chronicles II” reveals the complicated nature of life for people of color in Victorian England. Ndugu M’Hali, for example, came to the public’s attention as Kalulu, the boy servant of the explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley. In this show, he is depicted several times, in both African and Western dress, a child between cultures.

A more formal series of small portraits — largely cartes de visites, or calling cards — opens the exhibit. These include images of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a native of West Africa who was “given” to Queen Victoria as a slave and raised as her goddaughter. In two portraits from 1862, one with her husband, she appears the essence of a calm, well-dressed Victorian lady, despite her tragic history.

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Bill Cosby to Loan African-American Art Collection to Smithsonian Institution

Bill Cosby
‘To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long,’ Cosby said. (Photograph: Rick Cinclair/AP)

After amassing a private collection of African-American art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art.

The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, includes works by such leading African-American artists as Beauford Delaney, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage and Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Cosby collection of more than 300 African American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings has never been loaned or seen publicly, except for one work of art.

“It’s so important to show art by African-American artists in this exhibition,” Cosby said in a written statement. “To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long, some of whom will speak no more.”

The exhibit, “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”, will open November 9th and will be on view through early 2016 in Washington. It will be organized by themes, placing pieces from African artists in the Smithsonian collection near similar works from African-American artists in Cosby’s collection. Curators said it will explore ideas about history, creativity, power, identity and artistry.

Some highlights include rare 18th and early 19th-century portraits by Baltimore-based artist Joshua Johnston, explorations of black spirituality in the 1894 piece “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner and Cosby family quilts.

“The exhibition will encourage all of us to draw from the creativity that is Africa, to recognize the shared history that inextricably links Africa and the African diaspora and to seek the common threads that weave our stories together,” said museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole, in announcing the exhibit.

The exhibition of Cosby’s collection is part of the African art museum’s 50th anniversary.

article via theguardian.com

Kenyan Firm Turns Discarded Flip-flops into Art

Flip-flop art
Flip-flop art manufactured by Ocean Sole.

What do you do with a pair of old flip-flops? Not an idle question as the planet produces billions of pairs of non-biodegradable pairs every year.  But now a Kenyan biologist turned businesswoman has at least a partial solution. Julie Church‘s artisan manufacturing company, Ocean Sole, turned about 50 tons of dirty, discarded and damaged flip-flops into animal ornaments and jewellery in 2013. She anticipates doubling that amount this year, and will pay 25p per kilo to whoever brings them in.

In Kenya, where plastic flip-flops cost a dollar, beaches are littered not just with broken and battered domestic varieties but with flip-flops from all over the world. Branded flip-flops turn up on Kenya’s east-facing shoreline from the Middle East, South Asia and Australasia.  Ocean Sole is Church’s private sector attempt to educate consumers and producers alike. Sales have tripled in the last year and it is reaching a global market supplying some of the world’s most famous zoos and aquariums. “Their shops are usually full of stuff that is so bad for the environment,” Church says.

See Picture Gallery of More Flip Flop Art

The UN estimates that every square mile of ocean hosts nearly 50,000 pieces of plastic. “When someone says they’re throwing something away, where is away?” Church says. When plastic is concerned, “away” often equates to ending up in one of the worlds rivers or oceans. Kenyan paleontologist Louise Leakey once warned that the legacy of our era on earth would be a layer of subcutaneous plastic.

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New Cape Town Museum to Focus on Contemporary African Art

???????A new museum that will house the largest collection of contemporary African art on the continent, will open in 2016 in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, it was announced last week.

The institution will be known as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, in honor of the German art collector Jochen Zeitz, who is providing the museum’s founding collection. It will be in the historic grain silo in the waterfront district, a prime residential and commercial area and tourist hub.

The creation of the museum will be financed by the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront development project, which is contributing 500 million South African rand (about $50 million) to the transformation of the 187-foot tall grain silo, built in 1921. The architect will be announced in February.

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LACMA’s ‘Shaping Power’ Exhibit Reveals Central African Masterpieces

"Caryatid Stool" from the 19th century, part of the LACMA exhibition "Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa." (LACMA / Royal Museum for Central Africa)
“Caryatid Stool” from the 19th century, part of the LACMA exhibition “Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa.” (LACMA / Royal Museum for Central Africa)

A terrific exhibition of carved wood sculptures inaugurates the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s first gallery exclusively dedicated to the display of the arts of Africa. On the second floor of the Hammer building the newly renovated space is not large: Big exhibitions often have entryways that are bigger. And it’s not uncommon to see shows with educational texts covering more wall space than is occupied by this compact show.

But bigger is not always better. The 27 ceremonial objects that make up “Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa” are scaled to the human body. Many are made to fit in the hand, on the head or under one’s neck, while sleeping. Each needs to be seen up-close and in person.

All of the ancestral figures, medicinal bowls, regal staffs, double-sided cups and elaborate masks resonate alongside their neighbors. This allows first-time visitors and more experienced viewers to see the stylistic consistencies that unify these fascinating objects and to notice the idiosyncrasies that distinguish one from another. Sometimes the hand of a specific artist is revealed. More often anonymous adaptations amplify each piece’s accessibility, not to mention its humanity. Such range reveals a robust, visually sophisticated culture.

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Beautiful Games: Oil Paintings by Ghanaian Artist Tafa

Painting by Tafa

Ghanaian artist Tafa has imbued his vibrant oil paintings with motion by stroking thick layers of paint across each canvas with a palette knife. Inspired by his West African heritage – especially the colors and patterns of Kente cloths and the rhythm of traditional drums – Tafa rose to prominence as an artist in his own country in the 1990s before moving to New York. His imagery encompasses sporting themes, as well as spirituality and music.

“I paint sports themes because they are a universal form of communication that is replete with powerful, multi-layered symbolism. Team sport fosters hard work, fraternity, excellence, and international understanding … It is an area of life that underlines Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision that people should be judged by the content of their character.”  To see more of his inspiring works, click here.

article via guardian.co.uk

‘African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde’ at the Met

Masks in Malvin Gray Johnson’s painting “Negro Masks” (1932). (Librado Romero/The New York Times)

It’s easy to take for granted just how quickly art travels today, whether by JPEG or shipping crate. For a sense of how slow things were just a century ago, and how much could get lost en route from one continent to another, visit “African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde,” a small but highly compelling show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of several exhibitions timed to the centennial of the Armory Show of 1913, where many New Yorkers caught their first glimpse of Modern art from Europe (much of it influenced by African sculpture).

Meticulously researched and thoughtfully presented by Yaëlle Biro, the Met’s assistant curator in the department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, it tells the story of African art’s early reception in the United States with exceptional candor. And it makes clear that Americans received Modern art and African art as a single import, derived from French and Belgian colonies, distilled in Paris and presented on these shores by a few tastemaking dealers and collectors.

African Art to Shine at Miami’s Art Basel December 6-9

Mickalene Thomas: Qusuquzah, Une Trés Belle Négresse 2, part of the 2012 Art Basel

The 11th annual art carnival known as Art Basel Miami Beach is set to kick off next week and will feature Art Africa Miami as its cultural hub. The Miami Beach Convention Center will be hosting the showcase for more than 50 contemporary artists from the global African Diaspora from Dec. 6 to 9.  Typically, Art Basel (which was founded in 1970) pulls from more than 250 leading art galleries from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, exhibiting modern artworks by more than 2,000 artists. Until 2011, when Neil Hall — owner of TheUrbanCollective’s Art Africa Miami — stepped in, the main show hadn’t had black galleries represented.

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Contemporary African, African-American Artwork Presented in NYC

Philip Kwame Apagya, Come on Board, 2000/2003<br />Courtesy of The Walther Collection
Philip Kwame Apagya, Come on Board, 2000/2003
Courtesy of The Walther Collection
Arthur Walther,64, is a German-American art collector who began collecting artwork and photography in China in the early 1990′s. Following his retirement as a general partner at Goldman Sachs and the founding partner of the firm’s German operations, Walther focused on his collection.  The wave of modernization and economic reform flooding through China resulted in artists recording and analyzing the changes that were occurring. As China competed more in the global market, Walther found himself shying away from their artists and collecting more work from contemporary African artists.

“A number of these [artworks] overlapped continuously,” Walther said at the exhibition of his latest exhibition, Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, which is being shown at the Chelsea Arts Building in New York. “I collected Chinese art very slowly. In the nineties and early 2000, [Chinese art was] a real examination and investigation by the artist of society and of the transformations and of their histories. Which before didn’t happen to that degree [because art] was all propaganda and political.”

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The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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