Jewels of Nomadic Images
Serigraphs, mixed media and installation
October 18th – December 1st, 2011
Skoto Gallery is pleased to present Jewels of Nomadic Images an exhibition of recent serigraphs, paintings, mixed media and installation by the Nigerian artist Bruce Onobrakpeya. This will be his first solo show in New York since the exhibition “Where Gods and Mortals Meet’ at the Museum for African art. The reception is on Thursday, October 18th, 6-8pm. The artist will be present.
Bruce Onobrakpeya is a world-renowned master print-maker, painter, sculptor, poet and pioneer in modern African art, whose long and distinguished career spans more than five decades and continues to astonish with protean audacity. He employs a deep understanding of the cultural history of the African continent combined with a willingness to embrace a continuum of cultural precedents and influences along with an open-ended improvisational sensibility to create work that exploit the fissure between the natural world and the world of imagination. The visual resonance in his work is undeniable, attesting to his ability to seamlessly fuse ancient and modern concepts and aesthetics that pay tribute to the traditional religion, custom and folklore of his heritage while using a wide range of printmaking techniques including those he pioneered.
Included in this exhibition is a portfolio of twenty recent serigraphs from his Sunshine Period, 1962-67, in which the artist revisited seminal works including Cyclist and the Ram from 1963. Characterized artistically by a bright palette of colors reflecting the radiance of sunlight in the tropics, this period also marked the beginning of his experimentation with innovative artistic practices. The serigraphs make poignant statement on the tension between contained energy and boundless space, as well as, affirm the artist’s awareness of the crucial links between culture, politics and social agency. The mixed media installation Aro Oguan III, 2007-2011 was inspired by Urhobo shrines, and are used to honor the spirits and ancestors of the Urhobo peoples in the Delta region of Nigeria. The installation, a stylized and conceptual rendering of an entire shrine evokes spatial and temporal dimension where the metaphysical and the physical intersect.
Bruce Onobrakpeya was born August 30, 1932 in Agbarha-Otor near Ughelli, Delta State, Nigeria, and is of Urhobo descent. He received a diploma in fine arts in 1961 and arts education in 1962 from the Nigerian College of Technology (now Ahmadu Bello University) in Zaria. Throughout the 1960s he participated in numerous artist workshops including the Mbari Artists' and Writers' Club printmaking workshops at Ibadan directed by the Dutch printmaker Ru Van Rossen. During this time he apprenticed with sculptor Ben Enwonwu, and became a founding member (1964) of the Society of Nigerian Artists. In 1990 he participated in the 44th Venice Biennale were he received an honorable mention. He has traveled extensively, teaching workshops and exhibiting in the United States, Italy, Zimbabwe, Britain, Kenya, and Germany. Awards include honorary D. Litt. from the University of Ibadan in 1989. the Pope John Paul II award for painting the life of Saint Paul, the Fellowship of Asele Institute award, the Saddam Hussein award, the Solidra Circle award, the Living Human Treasure Award (2006) given by UNESCO, and on 14 September 2010 became the second winner of Nigeria's prestigious Nigerian Creativity Award by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Its first winner was Chinua Achebe.
Jewels of Nomadic Images
I take advantage of the dynamics of printmaking and experimentation to manipulate the same motif or idea to produce different design effects. Tiny line engravings have been developed and transformed into low relief sculptures called plastocasts, in some cases enlarged into bigger reliefs or paintings. In reverse, pieces which were finished as large pictures or prints have been re-examined in miniature gravures. These process of transformation, or if you like migration of a design from one artistic medium, size or combination to another is what I describe as nomadic. This also includes recycling of discarded objects for a new lease of life.
I am always fascinated by objects arranged as parts of traditional shrines, fabrics, jeweleries or amulets. They combine to create aesthetic charm, magic or manna. I incorporate them and similar objects into my artworks in the hope of liberating them from the stigma of the fetish to which they have been long subjected.
Papa Ajao, Mushin