Tag: fine 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

Basquiat Videos: Toxic, Macklemore And Al Diaz Speak On SAMO’s Inspiration And Legacy (VIDEO)

Basquiat VideosWhether seen in a market report, an art history book or a rap verse, the name Jean-Michel Basquiat is legendary. The dreadlocked young artist quickly rose to fame after taking up graffiti in New York City, becoming an incandescent art star before his untimely death in 1988 at only 27 years old.

Twenty five years later, the late artist is experiencing a massive global resurgence. In New York, his blowout Gagosian retrospective saw record attendance and his work is slated to appear later this month at Gagosian’s posh Hong Kong gallery for the first time ever. And yet, we often get so tied up in Basquiat the legend we forget he was a real person.

A new three-part video series released by Christie’s remembers Basquiat not only for his artistic genius, but also his energy, audacity and growing pains. The series begins with Basquiat’s high school friend and the other half of the graffiti duo known as SAMO, Al Diaz. “What we were doing was a response to everything around us…everything we were disillusioned by.”

Next we hear from Toxic, Basquiat’s friend and contemporary, who paints a picture of the Haitian artist’s meteoric rise to fame.

Finally we hear from Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore — yes, the singer of “Thrift Shop” — for a surprisingly touching meditation on Basquiat as a source of inspiration in his work as he grapples with his own success. “When he got with Warhol it was like everyone just tore him down.” Macklemore continues, “That’s such a weird feeling as an artist to make something that’s pure, that’s from the heart, that is who you are, and have a group of people shit on you.”

In a conversation with the curator and critic Henry Geldzahler in Interview, the 23-year-old artist delivers a deceptively simple, thought-provoking line: “The more I paint the more I like everything.” The films above honor the mind and legacy of a star that burned too bright, too fast.  Basquiat’s collection will show at Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong from May 25 until August 10, and “Dustheads” (1982) is expected to fetch $25-35 million at Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 15.

article by Priscilla Frank via huffingtonpost.com

Former Lover Reveals Wealth of Unseen Works by Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat's 'Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)'
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)’ painting estimated at 7-9 million GBP is displayed at Christie’s in February in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? More to the point, is a sound only a sound if someone hears it? Without delving too deeply into the metaphysics, this riddle offers an imperfect analogy for the philosophical conundrum more relevant here, namely – is art only art if someone sees it?  TheGrio interviewed Alexis Adler, a New York University embryologist and former romantic companion of iconic Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, these and other tacit questions about how we evaluate, share and make meaning of art played mysteriously in the background.

Adler, who lived with Basquiat before he was famous, recently revealed plans to share a previously unseen, thirty-year-old collection of art works and ephemera from the early career of the tragic and prolific creator. Produced during their relationship in an East Village apartment — some pieces on the apartment — these pieces have never been seen by the art world or the public.

“This is allowing the people who knew Jean to tell the world more about him, who he was, how I knew him, his warmth and interest as a person,” Adler told theGrio about her plans. “There is a range of work from that time, and it offers a pretty intense snapshot of his beginnings as an artist.”

Continue reading “Former Lover Reveals Wealth of Unseen Works by Basquiat”

Artist Kehinde Wiley Gains Attention for Exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum

New York-based painter Kehinde Wiley‘s current exhibit Kehinde Wiley: Memling at the Phoenix Art Museum is attracting national attention, most recently via a mention in Time Magazine’s ‘Pop Chart’ in the March 18 issue. Wiley’s eight portraits take their poses and contexts from the works by the legendary 15th century Flemish master Hans Memling but Wiley has substituted contemporary sitters for the historical figures. 

Continue reading “Artist Kehinde Wiley Gains Attention for Exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum”

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

HBCU Elizabeth City State University Opens a New Art Gallery

“Guitar Player” by Leonard Jones

Elizabeth City State University, the historically Black educational institution in North Carolina, recently opened its new Kermit E. White Graduate and Continuing Education Center. The center houses the university’s art gallery.

One section of the gallery will display pieces from the university’s permanent collection of African and African American art. The other part of the gallery will exhibit a rotating selection or a visiting collection.

Professor Alexis Joyner, chair of the art department at the university, loaned eight pieces from his personal collection for the opening exhibit. In addition, works by Leonard Jones, a former professor at Virginia State University and Charles Joyner of North Carolina State University are in the opening exhibit.

The accompanying illustration shows one of the pieces in the exhibit, “Guitar Player” by Leonard Jones.

article via jbhe.com

Murals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of Camilo José Vergara’s photographs on view at the New-York Historical Society.


Since the 1970s Camilo José Vergara has been photographing murals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. painted on walls in cities across the United States. Through them, he has documented social and political changes in the country itself. On a wall in the Callowhill section of Philadelphia, above, Dr. King is the potent orator of the Washington marches; on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem he’s a solitary, anxious visionary. In Los Angeles his figure is all but buried under fresh graffiti; in the South Bronx, the site of turf wars between blacks and Latinos in the 1970s, his face is scratched out.

Most of the murals were based on published images of Dr. King, edited to context. With trends in immigration, he takes on Latino and Asian features. Over time he is joined by a shifting pantheon of timely heroes: Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson and President Obama. As one person explained to Mr. Vergara: “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we all can fly.” On the evidence of the 30 pictures in “The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara” at the New-York Historical Society through May 5, the popularity of other heroes brightens and fades while Dr. King’s mystique lives on.

article by Holland Cotter via nytimes.com

“Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe” Exhibit Opens at Brooklyn Museum

Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe Portraits by this artist in this Brooklyn Museum show. (Librado Romero/The New York Times)

Mickalene Thomas’s brash, exuberant paintings don’t care what you think of them; they are much too busy simply — or not so simply — being themselves. Their sense of independence is driven home by this artist’s invigorating exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, along with the realization that the museum’s populist program sometimes hits the nail on the head.

Organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art in California, and substantially expanded in Brooklyn, “Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe” is a show of broad appeal, free of dumbing down. It has examples of the large, color photo-portraits and clusters of the small, truculent collages that function as studies for Ms. Thomas’s paintings while being works of art themselves. Continue reading ““Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe” Exhibit Opens at Brooklyn Museum”