Odili Donald Odita: Double Edge

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Joost Bosland: You begin your creative process by making sketches long before you start to paint. Odili Donald Odita: I’ve noticed that often a drawing only turns into a painting six months to a year later. Over that period, the drawing transforms; I might go back to it and start using gouache and a brush and whiting out parts of the drawing to reformulate the space. For this process I photocopy the original drawing, so I can cut, edit and shift things around to make the composition tighter, closer to what I’m thinking and feeling. I’m starting to realise that the graph drawings I make are narrative oriented, that they’re personal and meaningful to me. Interestingly, very few of your sketches contain colour. I occasionally colour them in to get a sense of what a painting might look like. I did this for the wall at the Studio Museum, for example, to help me understand what I needed to do. But most of the time I prefer to get the experience as the work goes up on the wall.


Given the time between the initial sketch and the finished painting, are we seeing into the future when we look at your current sketchbook? These drawings sit in the past but offer a window onto the future, absolutely. One might expect you to be drawn to computers to plan your images, to see how the pattern looks, how the colours interact, before paint goes onto canvas. I know some artists use computers but for me it takes away the joy of the unknown. It might be faster but I find pleasure in the risk of not knowing the outcome. Doing wall paintings, however, has helped me to speed up the process, let go of certain sentimental notions I had about painting and colour. I don’t care for sentimentality. But I need the slowed-down process of these drawings because it connects me to what I’m doing, so I can understand it in a deep, intuitive way. Intuition comes with practice. I can now make decisions about a painting in seconds, but I need that heightened awareness in the moment. You distinguish between sentimentality on the one hand, and intuition and feeling on the other. How do you relate to emotion? Sentimentality is an irrational, bourgeois attachment to things. Sentiment starts where emotion ends. You stop thinking in a sentimental state. Emotion itself is a form of intellectuality. If you look into your emotions you start to understand who you are and why you do things. People today are very skeptical, even scared, of visual pleasure or emotional responses to art. People have stopped learning to trust themselves and their instincts. They stop thinking and start using formulas, as with the conceptual rhetoric dominant in art discourse today. This is just a new kind of formalism. Just because people like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida have critiqued histories of knowledge and structures of power does not mean that we now have to discard everything else and stick to their theories. (And I like their work.) We’re human beings; isn’t it pleasurable to use your mind and heart to make and see something new? Which artists do you feel an affinity for? I like Steven Parrino. One might say his is the most emotionally void work imaginable – just black


paintings that have been messed with. But work like that is so direct. People like Parrino, Luc Tuymans, Caravaggio, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois – they challenge what they know, and take themselves beyond themselves, without sentimentality. These artists are all from previous generations. Are younger artists working today less important to you? I admire the tenacity of artists working today – they’re changing art. And as much as I admire LeWitt, there has to be more. A family friend once told me that the Beatles were the last great pop musicians, but that is ridiculous. Does that mean one can’t enjoy Nirvana, Outkast or the Wu-Tang Clan? Art for me is about challenging what we know and who we are, and ultimately it is about freedom. Freedom is a very important idea, and one which I think is misunderstood. What about being able to say: ‘I’ve lived my life the way I wanted to live it, without regret’? Like the general distrust of pleasure today, there is a common distrust of people who take themselves seriously. Your project is serious in a way that people are not necessarily comfortable with. If you’re serious, you can be wrong. Irony and wit are much easier. That’s the thing. I’m not afraid to be wrong. If you’re being ironic, you can always walk out of the room looking sexy, no matter what. But life is not about glamour. Human beings live and make mistakes. Did you study classical colour theory, such as Joseph Albers’ work? I studied with Steven Pentak who utilised Josef Albers’ theory of colour, or colour interaction, in his teaching. I really didn’t fully understand it; I took it my way. The best thing I learned in this class was to personalise colour. The fact that I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where houses are purple, pink, yellow, green, is important. When I went to school in New


Give Me Shelter 2007 Acrylic latex wall paint, coloured pigment on wall Installation views, 52nd Venice Biennale Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, with support of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York Photographs: Giovanni Pancino

England, to Bennington College, everything was white with green or black shutters, or stone. Colour is active in different places in different ways. Do you relate your works to specific environments? Yes. When I was based in Florida my work was influenced by the natural surroundings. But my colours are slowly becoming more intellectualised and less local. They are more about the mind, what I see and how I transform this. Colour is more reflective and flatter in industrial situations than in nature, where it is more transparent and absorptive. You’ve commented before on how visiting West Africa for Festac ’77 affected the colour sensibility of a number of artists. Over the years, you’ve travelled to Nigeria with some regularity. Has this influenced your use of colour? It has allowed me to relax my sense of colour association, to be less restrictive about what colours go together. I would see colour combinations in some of those textiles that I would never have thought of. Why couldn’t I allow myself the same freedom? I also learned about the nature of dust, how it covers things, but also about how some powerful colours can penetrate a dusty space. I remember a visit to my aunt’s house in the village. In my memory, everything was very dark, but when I had the pictures developed I was shocked by the intense blue of the wall, and the colour of their couch. For your wall paintings you use commercial paint. Is this a shift for you? I actually used wall paint in my early paintings, for economic reasons. I’d mix my colours from cans of house paint, but they would fade over time because the paint uses relatively little pigment. Did you know that car paint is the most expensive paint on the market? That is really space-age paint. The colour industry is supported by the crumbs of car paint technology, the same way that military technology filters down to our cell phones and computers.


You went from using industrial paint to specialised artists’ paint, and now back to industrial paint again. Frank Stella did a ‘Benjamin Moore’ series, named after the paint manufacturer that you currently use. Is Stella an artist who’s important to you? Yes, and he was particularly significant during my academic years. In 2005 I had the good fortune to meet him. We walked around the Birmingham Museum together when we both happened to visit the curator, David Moos, on the same day. Frank had a film crew in tow. He spoke of his process, of how he would hit a painting just once; if he had to hit it twice, it would be ruined for him and he would start over again. He wanted that industrial quality. I’m doing something different: I want a hand gesture in the paint, a slowness in the way you look at the colour. I want your eye to take its time in the colour plane. But I want flatness at the same time, so I give myself a very narrow space to work in. It’s virtually impossible to reproduce that texture in a printed catalogue such as this. You simply can’t. The paintings are about seeing them. When you stand in front of them it is a physical experience – I really believe in that reality. That ties to the wall works, which for me are events. You’re forced to go and see the work, the same way you’re forced to go and see theatre. It’s going to vanish, you can’t just see it at the next retrospective. It’s also about space, about the physicality of bodies standing in front of the work within a specific space. I find that to be the case with your paintings on canvas as well. Usually, a person standing in front of something is a distraction. With your work it’s the other way round – a person activates the painting. They are spaces, walls. The very first painting I made on this scale was called Wall Painting. It now seems a prophetic title. I saw a dance performance in front of Julian Schnabel’s ‘Egypt’ paintings in the early 1990s. A friend of mine, Jonathon Appels, had rented the Pace Gallery for his dance company’s performance. That’s when I saw the significance of Schnabel’s work. He was recreating the aura of places he travelled to. I connect with this idea of bringing my experiences of travelling and moving through different spaces into the paintings. I want to convey the significance for me of my travels in Europe, America and Africa, and the phenomena of colour and light to be found there. Travelling as the ‘stranger’, it is always important for me to find my connection into these places. Living through observations of colour and light and engaging in what these things do is one profound way for me to do this. It means I have to be sensitive to my surroundings, to listen


and pay attention to what is happening around me. Really, anyone can activate the space they’re in if they can engage with it. When Ellsworth Kelly made his Painting for a Large Wall, he said that he ‘aimed to establish a new scale of painting, closer contact between the artist and the wall, providing a way for painting to accompany modern architecture’. How does this relate to your wall installations? And what was it like to work on Zaha Hadid’s building for the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati? I like Kelly’s idea. I responded intuitively to Hadid’s sense of international style, albeit with a postmodern update. My whole project comes out of my fascination with the United Nations and the international style that coexists with this philosophy, and the conceptualisation of the world as a united space. This may still only be a utopian vision. You describe how you respond to the spirit of the architecture. How do you respond to the architecture formally? In Cincinnati I had initially planned to paint only the columns, but when I saw the museum space given to me I knew I needed to do more to achieve what I wanted in terms of creating an exchange between the outside and the inside, the public and the private space felt and seen simultaneously through the large glass walls that make up the lobby entry of this museum. In Venice, the walls in the room I worked in were originally installed both to create a passageway and as protection for the historic frescoes behind them. So this room used to be round. The walls one sees there now have been up for the last two or three biennales. My wall painting made the space big and round again; I first flattened the edges with the wall painting below, and installed the pigmented semicircles above to create an additional rhythm of circularity within the space. I used to think that wall painting posed a threat to my work on canvas, but I now see that it has been a benefit. The wall painting process is at once antiquated and futuristic. Before the framed canvas was introduced to objectify painting for transport, painting was always done on walls. When people engage with my paintings on canvas, they engage with objects within space. When they engage with my wall paintings, it forces them to experience and respond to the architecture as well. It’s ultimately about noticing new things. When I do wall paintings, I use everything I have learned from canvas painting and then some. On the other hand, one can’t simply transfer a canvas painting onto a wall; it’s a different tableau. What I do with walls takes


my painting a step further and in a different direction. My diagonal lines are the conduit between the vertical and the horizontal, between the wall and the floor. In retrospect, it seems so obvious. The history of painting is about walls and space. But all of this is already in paintings on canvas – it has just been forgotten or overlooked by the viewer. I try to utilise everything I learn from the wall paintings to extend the scope of what can occur in the canvas paintings. Your most recent wall painting was a commission for the ramp of the ICA in Philadelphia. I planned a project that took great advantage of the height of the ceiling. I felt that the space had a sense of sky, and I wanted to play with that. I also wanted to skew the direction of the place to play with perspective and movement. Every time I do an installation there is a risk in not knowing how it will turn out. Venice was different from the Studio Museum, which was different from Cincinnati, and so on. With Equalizer at the Studio Museum, the architecture was less distinctive – is that perhaps why the work had a stronger narrative quality? The space was still specific, with its low walls and limited light. It became almost tomblike. The wall with the two landscapes next to each other, divided by a white stripe, was really important to me. The white stripe was about race to a certain extent, as a separation that annuls colour. But it was also a separation of individual spaces that look the same but are intrinsically different. The left side was a pastel tonal space; the right side was a very high-key chromatic space. The latter might remind one of a tropical place, while the former had the colour of a colder climate. Personally I was speaking of the Americas, as a new, cold place in contrast with the memory of a more tropical place, or a place associated with colour as heat. In a way these associations can be ridiculous, but how do we escape them? They are part of a collective narrative in culture. What architecture would provide your dream canvas?


Equalizer 2007 Acrylic latex wall paint and pigment on wall Installation views, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York Photographs: John Berens

I want to do a ceiling. I’m also fascinated with ‘difficult’ spaces like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, for example, and with the idea of working intimately with individuals to make personal, site-specific wall paintings. I continue to paint on canvas because of my love of and strong interest in investigating the intrinsic qualities of painting that cannot be replicated in any other format, but I have certainly let go of the idea that painting has to be on canvas. That’s why I love LeWitt. His practice was so open to itself that it became self-generative. Looking at LeWitt’s wall paintings it’s easy to see a relation between his work and yours. You’ve also both used the target motif. But then he says about his work that he doesn’t really care if it turns out beautiful or ugly. He approached his work very rationally. But colour has this ability of its own to enter an irrational zone. I can’t control colour, I can only use it. What it does when it sits there is something else. I painted the pink in Torch Song four or five times. There are four different colours underneath that bright pink. Any one of them could have worked, and any one of them would have been satisfactory. But the emotional tenor of the painting wasn’t where I wanted it to be. When I painted that pink the second time, I got it where I wanted it to be. When I painted it again, I added gesture to the pink. It’s about my hand as a painter, and how soft or hard I press down on the surface. I’m interested in the different ways that beauty is found, and the different ways we can understand that process. Ultimately I love


work that escapes logical constructs. I like a work that looks like it might have been found, or that just is. Is that why you’re open to making changes to a painting, breaking with your diagrams? That is my relation to the classical notion of the modernist painter, the ‘creative genius’ who has a personal relationship with what they make. It’s not ultimately about me but about the work – how can this work be the best it can be, irrespective of what I try to impose upon it? It might sound very traditional, but I don’t mind that. What I learned from my father is that tradition, in an African context at least, does not bind the artist to recreate past things. It’s about what you can do to bring a culture’s sensibility into the present. Going back to Torch Song, there was a grey underneath the pink, and the turquoise blue was a different colour too. As I’m working, the painting reveals itself to me. The red before was duller, but that didn’t work, particularly with what I wanted to say in the painting through the title. One has to think about the history of words and their connotations in ideas and titles. So I intensified the red until it contrasted greatly with the dominant cools in the painting to create this terribly uneasy emotional effect within the painting, which ultimately aided my thoughts going into this work. What does Torch Song mean? It’s a song of lament, of unrequited love. So I wanted the red to be a certain tone, to be a flame that gets extinguished as soon as it flares. That’s why I brought the pink in and intensified the orange colours. As a painter I feel much more affinity with musicians than with other artists. Music is so emotionally direct – people respond directly to it in a way they don’t with other art forms. Right now I’m listening to a lot of blues, but I listen to electronica, rock, and I love classical music. I see the form of the blues, in the States, as a connection to Africa. And that makes it somewhat illicit here, because of elements within the blues that have little to do with Christianity, for example. As a form, the blues have this ability to address our sadness, our sense of loss both personal and spiritual, as well as the ability to call out to our ancestors and to the dead. It’s about the humanity of all the people who have come before us, and our connection to this spirit. In your work, too, you seem to be drawn to those who came before you in the history of painting. Would you relate that to African notions of ancestor worship?


In a way. I look at the spirit of being a painter. I feel like I’m part of a family in the Western canon with a certain spirit that is based on non-conformity and all things that go against the status quo. There’s a lot of risk that artists take, trying to deal with the concept of freedom. I approach art history differently to most Western artists because of my familiarity with ancestral belief systems, but also because of my love of things outside the fine arts like comic books, movies and popular music. How do these different influences come to play in your work? At the ICA in Philadelphia, I sat and put all the colours together for my ramp installation, Third Space, in a way that was somewhat different to preparing for my canvas paintings, because the colours were given to me, I didn’t mix them myself. I composed the colours from provided colour chips, and I tried to formulate reasons for my decisions – why this colour and not that colour, why this pink and not that pink. People might not even notice the difference between the two, but I might have discovered that the former brings the mood up and allows the space to open, while the latter closes the space down and makes it more linear and flat. It’s all about trying to create a mood or a setting within an idea, and trying to make the colours enhance the idea, or a feeling. That’s the composer in me, the guy who listens to music and loves the way music can open and close space. Then I might look at colour in my work in terms of ancestral connotations, the stories my father has told me about their connection to different things. Those meanings, too, might help me to reach a conclusion about certain colours. Tell me about your archive. For each painting, you keep a record of all the colours you use. I don’t often go back into the archive. I went back once, to see if I repeat my colours, and discovered that I don’t. The possible variations of a colour are beyond counting; there are tints, tones, shades and various saturations of colour – I have also found myself using musical terms such as timbres and accents to describe the same thing. In my archive, I paint individual chips with all the colours I’ve used, and when I paint over a colour I also paint over the corresponding chip. My father is an art historian – maybe that’s why I have this awareness of working with history. When I was a student, I had strong painting and drawing teachers, but the teachers who were conceptual artists probably influenced me the most. I approached painting as a conceptual practice from the beginning, and painting was a model of the idea, not made to be the real thing. This, I felt,


was a more postmodern situation, and different from modernists who made paintings as if they were the real thing. In my practice, I’ve struggled with the idea of reality versus the model or the simulacrum. Maybe my wall paintings are becoming themselves. Their acknowledgment of the space they are in supersedes any historical connotations they might have. You’ve related the horizontal patterns in your work to television test patterns. I learned about America through television as a young immigrant boy in a Nigerian household, hence the test patterns. Transmitting TV shows abroad is a way to promote American ideals; it’s brainwashing. Further than that, I’m interested in the flash you’d see when you switched on an old television, before getting the image. I see this flash as the point before language, before the representation of an image as the word. So I want my painting to exist in this space that is void of language, and the void before language. You can apply words to it, but only after the fact of seeing. Your reference to a point before language reminds me of Hélio Oiticica, who once said that ‘colour is the first revelation of the world’. I’m glad you brought him up. When I think about him he strikes my heart, but then I don’t remember him immediately the next day because he was not part of the Western canon I studied. It’s like Brazilian music – how can people overlook Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes and Tropicália? We know the Beatles, but then there are all these other events that happened at the same time and have somehow been left out. Oiticica was working at the same time as the emergence of conceptual art in Europe and the States. He turned colour into a living thing, as a dimension alongside time and space. This is what the horizontal patterns initially implied in my paintings – this question of the periphery to the centre and what exists beyond the edge of (modernist) reality. You’ve started moving away from the horizontal in your designs, and this show even contains a canvas with a vertical orientation.


Flow 2007 Acrylic latex wall paint on wall Installation views, lobby of the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati Photographs: Tony Walsh


The horizontal patterns over time became or turned into landscapes, or the African landscape as a painted dream. But I’m ultimately more interested in the power of abstraction, since its metaphoric and narrative powers are limitless. Moving to the vertical is a natural step. Rather than paint figures, I can make an allusion to the figure through verticality. Painting is a medium that elicits strong responses and grand claims. We don’t often hear about the death of sculpture or the triumph of multimedia work. Painting has a long and profound history. Sculpture does too, but it has been revitalised to include the social sphere, the personal sphere, the political sphere. What people forget is that painting can do this too without losing its material and conceptual integrity. What I do with my walls, what LeWitt did with his walls, makes painting active again. LeWitt came out of this approach to art that spoke of the logic of form and structure but negated colour. Colour was seen as too emotional or too frivolous. For LeWitt to reincorporate the notion of colour into his practice, and to absorb hand gesture into his painting, for example, was to open up his practice to the potential and possibility of what painting and art might be. You seem quite comfortable placing yourself in the history of the medium. You wanted to teach at the Tyler School of Art because of its strong painting tradition. Tyler comes with a strong tradition of producing technically gifted artists. I like the academic environment, where I am continuously challenged to think more about why I make certain decisions. I taught a colour class for instance, and discovered that the aesthetic, formal history of colour is also bound up with the history of trade. Do you know why Holland was such an important centre of painting? Because of the ports – there was access to pigments. Venice, too. These were specific and important hubs of world trade in their times. The number of colours you use in a work ranges from about 24 in a typical canvas to about 100 for your large wall installations – about 70 for Venice, 90 for the Studio Museum, 112 in Cincinnati. How do these selections come about? Do you go to Benjamin Moore with a list? Three days ago my assistants picked up three bags of colour chips, perhaps a thousand different chips. I go through all of them and choose colours that will work with drawings for my wall painting.


Is there a certain showmanship involved in manipulating so many colours at the same time? The artist Carter Kustera once told me that his friend, John Currin, had said: ‘To be a painter is to want to be famous.’ I thought that was a stupid thing to say. But I found myself thinking about it for months, and actually seeing that it’s smart. It’s not about the fame of celebrity per se, it’s more about the desire to make something that transforms people, and gets to people. As an artist you want to affect culture, and affect how we navigate reality. In the curatorial statement for The Color Line, an exhibition you organised at the Jack Shainman Gallery, you write that ‘a condition of multiplicity has always been inherent in colour’. Bearing in mind the title of your exhibition in Cape Town, Double Edge, could you describe this multiplicity? It exists in the paintings in the sense that they have both an intellectual, conceptual sensibility, and an emotional sensibility. Specifically, the current show has a blues narrative that permeates the work. There’s also a sense of certainty in the way that the colours are arranged, like a hard edge in music. I’m also interested in the cultural positions that I bring to the work. They contain a sense of the European, the American and the African. It’s ultimately about all these sensibilities coexisting with one another. On the one hand, there is colour as the point before language, as some sort of pure state. But it’s boring if it stays there. Colour can’t stay in its own contained space; it has to breathe into other things. Colour is not merely material, it’s psychological. That is the double edge. For example, in my installation in Cincinnati, I wanted my work to be like a Trojan horse. I chose specific colours that came from the Confederate flag, the skin colour of a black person and the skin colour of a white person, and merged them together in the centre of the exhibition. People will have tea, bring their kids in from the suburbs and admire the work. They might or might not realise what I brought into the work, but they could come and accept the work, and say that this new experience was a good one. One text you’ve mentioned as influential on your thinking is David Batchelor’s Chromophobia. He contends that colour instills fear of contamination by something unknown or unknowable, and that much of what we think of as modernity has been concerned with the elimination of colour.


Batchelor speaks about Le Corbusier and how his elimination of colour from architecture was about trying to control something very powerful. His rejection of colour did not come from disinterest, but out of fear of its potency. Because colour cannot be controlled, one has to find ways to eradicate it so that it does not infect everything. I see this also enacted in the social realm as a fear of the black body, the person of colour or the Other. I use Chromophobia to teach colour, as do a number of people across the States. But it’s a threatening book to a lot of people, as it seems to question the West and its relationship to colour. Historic constructs in academia are so strong that when one sees a text like this that challenges or questions what we know, it’s hard to accept and take it seriously. The same applies to my work; there are no specific foundations for what I have arranged over time in my work, at least not yet. I hope I am creating precedents for other people to build on. The book’s initial reviews, by people like Dave Hickey, acknowledged that it was going to challenge certain notions of colour’s purpose in the canon. It fascinates me that something as simple as colour can be a bone of contention. Once someone asked about my work: ‘Why all the colour?’ That question answers itself. What theoretical position does one come from if one questions colour? One comes from a world where colour has not been allowed to exist unrestrained.


Third Space 2008 Acrylic latex wall paint on wall Installation views, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia Photographs: Aaron Igler


At the Edge of the World 2008 Sketch and work in progress



At the Edge of the World 2008 Acrylic latex paint on wall 294.5 x 602cm Installation view




Double 2008 Acrylic latex paint on walls at entrance to gallery Left 79 x 384cm; right 79 x 521cm


Crash 2008 Acrylic on canvas 213.5 x 277cm



Four States 2008 Acrylic on canvas 178 x 228.5cm



Double Edge 2008 Acrylic on canvas 127.5 x 152.5cm



Here and There 2008 Acrylic on canvas 228.5 x 178cm



Inside Out 2008 Acrylic on canvas 61.5 x 76.5cm


The Modern World 2008 Acrylic on canvas 76.5 x 101.5cm


Torch Song 2008 Acrylic on canvas 178 x 228.5cm



Night’s Door 2008 Acrylic on canvas 213.5 x 277cm



Eternal 2007 Acrylic on canvas 183.5 x 233.5cm



Splitfield 2007 Acrylic on canvas 178 x 228.5cm



BIOGRAPHY Odili Donald Odita Born 1966, Enugu, Nigeria Lives and works in Philadelphia and New York www.odilidonaldodita.com



Third Space, Ramp Project, Institute of

RESISTANCE, Matrix Art Project, Brussels,

Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA

Belgium Transformer, Hospitalhof, Stuttgart, Germany


New Work, Schmidt Contemporary Art, St

Equalizer, Project Space, Studio Museum in

Louis, MO

Harlem, New York Flow, Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for


Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Center,

Interlude, Wintergarten, Vienna, Austria

Cincinnati, OH

New Works, Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL



Fusion, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Life, Riva Gallery, New York Paintings and Drawings, Florence Lynch


Gallery, New York

Paradise, Wertz Contemporary, Atlanta, GA 2000 2004

Transfers/Odyssey, Kunsthalle, St Gallen,

The Third Eye, Haunch of Venison (Galerie


Judin Belot), Zurich, Switzerland

Passport, Jenn Joy Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Notes from Paradise, Florence Lynch Gallery,

New Work, Alex Rosenberg Art Gallery,

New York

Hofstra University, New York




Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art

Dak’Art – Dakar Biennale, Senegal

and the Diaspora, Nelson-Atkins Museum of

Flipside, Artists Space, New York

Art, Kansas City, MO Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind,


52nd Venice Biennale

A Fiction of Authenticity: Contemporary

The Color Line, Jack Shainman Gallery, New

Africa Abroad, Contemporary Art Museum, St

York; Centre international d’exposition de

Louis, MO, and other venues

Larouche, Canada (curated by Odita)

Black President, New Museum of Contempo-

Contemporary Art of Africa and the African

rary Art, New York, and other venues

Diaspora, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

After Matisse and Picasso, PS1 Contemporary

Exquisite Crisis and Encounters, Asian/Pacific/

Art Center, Long Island City, New York

American Institute at NYU, New York 2002 2006

Miami Currents, Miami Art Museum, FL

Luanda Triennial, Angola

The Field’s Edge: Africa, Diaspora, Lens,

Ordering and Seduction, Haus Konstruktive,

University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Zurich, Switzerland

Painting as Paradox, Artists Space, New York

Distant Relatives/Relative Distance, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town; Standard Bank


Gallery, Johannesburg

Here and Now, Zacheta National Gallery,

The Beautiful Game, Roebling Hall, Brooklyn

Warsaw; Galeria Arsenal, Bialystok, Poland

and New York

Five Continents and One City, Third

Holy Land: Diaspora and the Desert, Heard

International Salon of Painting, Museum of

Museum of Native American Art, Phoenix, AZ

Mexico City, Mexico Against the Wall: Painting against the Grid,


Surface and Frame, Institute of Contemporary

Round Leather Worlds, Martin Gropius Bau,

Art, Philadelphia, PA

Berlin, Germany

Material and Matter, Studio Museum in

The Shape of Colour: Excursions in Colour Field

Harlem, New York

Art, 1950–2005, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada

Pleasures of Sight and States of Being: Radical

Surface Charge, Virginia Commonwealth

Abstract Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, FSU,

University Museum, Richmond, VA

and the Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, FL


AKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank the entire staff at the Michael Stevenson Gallery, especially Michael Stevenson, Joost Bosland, Andrew da Conceicao, Sophie Perryer, Federica Angelucci and Fiona Mauchan for their maverick vision in hosting this exhibition. I want to thank my assistants on the execution of the wall paintings at the gallery, including Dustin Metz, Yeruschka Chetty, Mbuta Henriques Bayisese, Becky Haysom and Bianca McCallum. My thanks go also to AM Weaver for her persistent investigation and insight into the new work. I would also like to thank Jack Shainman, Claude Simard, Katie Rashid and Judy Sagal of the Jack Shainman Gallery for their unwavering support. I am grateful to my friends for their enthusiasm and encouragements, and lastly I am thankful to Emanuelle and Ifeanyi for their guiding spirit throughout this long journey. – Odili Donald Odita

Catalogue no 38 October 2008 Cover image Crash, 2008 (detail) Michael Stevenson Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock 7925 Cape Town, South Africa Tel +27 (0)21 462 1500 info@michaelstevenson.com www.michaelstevenson.com Editor Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Photography Mario Todeschini Image repro Ray du Toit Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town



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