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Press Releases - Skoto Gallery

SKOTO GALLERY 529 West 20th Street, 5FL.

New York, NY 10011 212-352 8058

National Theater, 2007, steel, conduit pipe, nails, 24x19x18 inches.

Olu Amoda

Head & Tie: Fashion Architectonic

May 10th – June 30th, 2007

Skoto Gallery is pleased to present "Head & Tie: Fashion Architectonic ", an exhibition of welded steel and mixed media sculptures by the Nigerian-born sculptor Olu Amoda. The reception will be on Thursday, May 10th, 5-8pm and the artist will be present.

Olu Amoda's sculpture has always sparked critical engagement with the public due to his ability to create engaging works that address some of the relevant issues of our time, as it attempts to investigate how individual perspective and reality is influenced by societal group consciousness, treating memory as a cultural rather an individual faculty. To the artist, art must engage individuals in a very deep and personal way, and in ways that may not be shared by every member of the society, art also can forge common bonds among various groups and since the creative process is always a collaboration of some kind or another, strive to create something that matters not only to oneself, but to others as well.

His work indicts the social and political reality around him, a reality shaped by his perspective as a leading African artist of his generation whose work continues to help shape perceptions about the aesthetic and cultural character of the continent. At a time, when so much attention is being given to the works of African artists who live and practice outside Africa by curators and exhibition organizers in the West in constructing narratives on contemporary African art practice, Olu Amoda and other artists who live and work in the continent, provide an alternative, optimistic stance in the repositioning and rewriting of art historical discourse with deep insightful commentaries and observations on the social, economic and political realities of modern Africa.

As a long-time faculty member in the sculpture department at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, he has also maintained an active studio practice in the city since the start of his professional career in the early nineteen eighties. Lagos – Nigeria's boisterous economic capital is a postcolonial city that takes second place to no one in breathing a reality that confronts with dense and varied forms of life, a variegation of lifestyles and colors and an intermixture of motifs that brings Nigeria and indeed all of Africa together in one fist. It is a city where the secular meets the profane and untold extremities are resolved into a common sensibility, and as aptly stated by the noted Nigerian political scientist and essayist Odia Ofeimun " There is in Lagos, a certain openness, a showiness, freedom from custom "

Away from the homeland now for almost a year, Olu Amoda is visiting sculpture professor and artist-in-residence at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina and in this brief sojourn, has found some moments of quietude in the idyllic campus/studio located at the Blue Ridge mountain in the northwestern part of the state to reflect, contemplate, be inspired and create the body of work for this exhibition – his first New York solo - and other large scale sculpture that will be included in a group show " Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft " at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in the Fall, 2007.

In this body of work, the artist draws upon the fashion, the head-ties and the lifestyles of the high and low society women in Lagos, as well as the textures, harmony, dissonance and the complications of urban living through the subjective lens of his experience, knowledge of the formal language of sculpture, metal lines and forms to create works that are evocative, capture the vitality and dynamic of cosmopolitan Africa, and the power of mass and space to clarify the spirit of the people. He is aware of function and experiment in the creative process and possesses a strong ability to draw in space by cutting, rolling and bending metals or fusing found objects – not with a pencil, but a welding torch

Olu Amoda's work involves welding several found objects including iron, a tough unyielding material lacking in the fine sinuosity of the precious metals to create sculpture that are full of powerful contrasts. They are gritty and seductive, brooding and redemptive, personal and monumental all at the same time. The power of the work derives from its combination of abstract shapes with pointed references to the human form while the use of other materials enhance the crisp contours and imparts a solidity typical of conventional sculpture that are imbued with enigmatic beauty that reflects subtle understanding of context, respect for tradition while embracing modernism, and capable of attaining a synthesis between matter and space.

These work are rich in meanings and metaphors, they transform observed reality, and yet remain uninterested in creating a mere description of this reality, giving priority instead to the representation of the ideal. Like in most of his other sculptures and commissions over the years - many of which are in private and public collections in Lagos, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas - he is well aware of the value of the foreign exchange of culture, and his alluring technique and material in engaging viewers to explore the work's subtexts, and in the process, become part of an experience. They are a true gift of art from a sculptor who knows the masks of the past and the future in 3 dimensions.

Artist Statement
E&E: Luck in Ephemeral and Endure

My work is entrenched in between the reject and the accepted. I use my work as a metaphor for addressing the socio-economic and political problems of the world but with strong reference to my country Nigeria. Just as objects are dispersed through the trade routes of the world, so also are attitudes transmitted via the electronic media and when objects and attitude collide the result manifests in a variety of ways such as: upgrading, trashing, recycling, and collecting. Trips to the scrap yard in Nigeria such as "Owode Oni irin in Lagos - which literally means the "arrival of the money of iro" - could be both breath-taking and something of a ground-breaking or eye-opening event for the artists who work with metal and objects. The Owode scrap yard is of course a far cry from scrap dumps in Europe and America where you can find exotic objects that date from many years past. There are all sorts of profiles from all parts of the world. The artist is often less concerned with the country of origin but more with the form and how it fits into what already exists or what direction it leads him.

Most of the scraps are left in the open as if they were being offered for sacrifice to the elements; new stocks of steels or exotic objects are never hastily priced or put up for sale until a couple days later, presumably long enough to allow it to acquire energy either from some roaming energies or latent ones living in the old steel and objects lying next to it, that is, by sharing sweet fellowship with the old objects, they would acquire new meaning and value. The rule here is that the unit costs less but multiplies in value as traders on these exotic objects interpret interest as cause for reevaluation. Negotiations sometimes go on for hours and may be left for another day as each party takes time to size up each other. The duration for a transaction depends on the level of desperation of either party either on the part of the seller to make a quick sale to survive or the part of the artist to acquire the object in order to complete a work. Traders in Owode have the attitude that Iron and objects on display do not require the same food as man; objects eat from the elements while man eats only when a deal goes through.

In a real sense, then, objects are not just waste but have a life and thus possess some latent energy that is not visible but very instrumental to the production of art. However, these objects generate their own peculiar kinds of problems for the artist. In the matter of art classification the artist who uses these objects is held suspect or put at a disadvantage. Hence, in most cases, the artist may lose his authorship as a result of the issue raised about the origin of the object he has used. Questioning the origin of the object of course necessarily casts doubt on the originality of the work itself. I strongly believe this should not be so. A problem we seem to have here is that we often apply our criteria for artistic judgment a bit unevenly and sometimes without fairness. This is because most people fail to give room for the local interpretation of the works no matter the similarities in form.

It is for this that my works focus on the search and study of objects with a view to learning about the first users and the level of sophistication of the country of origin and path or route such material had gone through to arrive at my studio. At this point I become an anthropologist, archaeologist and forensics expert who employ this energy from the objects as the driving force for addressing current issues that manifest as my sculptures. The sculpture plays the dual role of being the bridge that links the artist to his audience or on the other hand that unifies the audience with the artists but with a common or varying view points. The later is not by any means striping the artist of his authorship but humbles him so that the object can reveal more undiscovered, before art experiences, in the mind or dream world.

This duality in the life of objects is something I explore, or, may be, exploit, in my sculptures, one level for the audience, the other for the artist. In some cases, the tension of wanting to be or not to be, finds its way into my piece, a tension I will hope and wish my audience will subject itself to as each person discourses with my works against the back drop of my titles. The devolving nature of found object makes it an interesting medium by which most of my pieces evolved; the metaphor that arises from the tension between accepting and rejecting remains the key to unlock the meaning of my pieces. Feel free to reject for in rejecting you are also charting another course the works can travel.

Olu Amoda , March 2007

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