Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Diaspora Dialogue @ UMUC Gallery, Maryland

This past Sunday, Diaspora Dialogue: The Art of Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Alexander "Skunder" Boghossian, and Victor Ekpuk opened at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), in the Washington DC area. For me, it was an eye-opener because it was the first time I was seeing so many works--21 in total--by Skunder Boghossian, easily one of the most influential modern African artists of the 20th century; from his Union (1966) through some key works from the 1970s, to his late work, including the very important The Cross Roads (1992-97). The exhibition is, in a way, like mini-retrospectives of the three artists--which is great because it makes the large format, delightfully illustrated catalogue (no comment on my introductory text!) is an important resource for anyone interested in including any of the artists in their course offerings.


                                          Art historians: Amanda Carlson, Shannen Hill and Ugochukwu Smooth Nzewi
Art Historian Janine Sytma (left) 

Writer/blogger Ikhide Ikheloa, Nzewi and art historian Peju Layiwola

Victor Ekpuk in black (center)

Skunder Boghossian, DMZ, 1973

Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Sumanguru Atenteben (2004) (left); Mamafrika  (2008) (right)
The ceramic sculptures of Ampofo-Anti (who is a nephew of that Ghanaian pioneer modernist Dr. Oku Ampofo) was a great revelation for me. I cannot remember the last time (if ever!) I saw ceramic sculpture in such monumental scale. Although they clearly bear marks of ancient and traditional African architectural--especially Sudanic adobe--inspiration, they also seem like futuristic, actually apocalyptic, structures. Order and chaos, stasis and dynamism, strength and fragility all press against the flat, angular surfaces of these towering structures. 

Ampofo-Anti, Omo Mondawmin II (2004) (left); Odurugya (2008) (right)

Audience at the opening artists' panel discussion. 

Victor Ekpuk, Head I (2006)
It was of course wonderful to see Ekpuk's work of the past twenty years, beginning from early painting Fish Market (1994), through the dramatic Three Wise Men (1996) and the recent pastel drawing, the I AM series (2012), consisting of simple, playfully rendered heads. Though I had seen Three Wise Men many years back in Lagos, seeing the work now I could not but appreciate more than ever before the artist's remarkable achievement with a graphic notation system he developed from nsibidi, the occult script associated with the once-powerful and still-secret Ekpe society of Southeastern Nigeria. 

No comments: