Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nnenna Okore at the Contemporary African Art Gallery New York City

From a media release:

Nnenna Okore: Transfiguration
Contemporary African Art Gallery
330 West 108th Street (at Riverside Dr.)
New York , New York 10025

The Opening
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
6:00 - 9:00 pm

Open Hours
Saturday October 27 & November 3  12:00 noon- 6:00 pm
Thereafter By Appointment
Bill Karg and Reese Fayde

When I opened Nnenna Okore's first exhibit in New York in 2007, one of the gallery visitors remarked that she needed more seasoning. There was no arguing that Nnenna was young, at still under 30; however, "more seasoning" did not resonate. Five years later, I now understand. Nnenna's work has developed in both aesthetic complexity and meaning. I have installed a work that the gallery purchased five years ago as part of the exhibit. See if the earlier work is recognizable.

What has been perceptible over these five years is that Nnenna is rarely identified as the student of El Anatsui. As an artist she has always had her own, and very independent, voice. She now also has a maturing reputation to accompany it. During the last five years she has indeed become an artist with an international reputation, having been in shows in the United States, England, France, Denmark, Brazil and, of course, her native Nigeria.

The show is a fusion of works of paper and bark, which place a sharp focus on the physical world, fused with ceramic works, which impart more human manipulation and more deliberate sculptural form. The ceramic works, juxtaposed against the more amorphous natural paper and bark forms, bring a Zen-like configuration with each technique accentuating what the other is or is not.

We have heard much about the cycle of life and just as often the end of that cycle is not portrayed or, if so, not in a beautiful way. Nnenna exalts the beauty of aging and deterioration in a way that brings beauty to all that nature offers us. She offers it in the way-of-the-artist; compelling us to look more closely.

Nnenna Okore's process grows, appropriately, from her African observations: weaving, sewing, dyeing, rolling and twisting fabric. Her broad definition of "fabric" adds the unique quality to her work. 

Similar to the veins in a leaf claiming an intricacy that can take the breath, the filigree that Nnenna captures with burlap and cloth give nothing less in beauty and intricacy to a similar process in gold. Do we have kind of reverse alchemy here?

To say that Nnenna Okore is one of the most innovative young artists to emerge from Africa is an understatement. In a relatively short period of time she has built an international following and finds herself in the permanent collections of, to name a few: The Newark Museum; The Jean Paul Blanchere Foundation, France; The Royal Collections, Abu Dhabi and the Daraja Foundation, London.

Nnenna is on a Fulbright in Nigeria so she will not be able to join us; however, we hope you will.

• Conjoined (48" x 42" x 7")
• Threads of Time (57" x 59" x 10")
• Ndidi (68" X 50" X 10")

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