Chairs (Eames LCW for Hermann Miller, reproduction), steel cables
24 x 58 x 20 inches
© Edgar Orlaineta
In the fresh and provocative work presented in MetaModern, leading and emerging artists refer literally and conceptually to design objects of the mid-twentieth century. These now historical objects have gained the status of icon, emblem, and cultural signifier. It is a testament to their enduring power that mid-century modernist designs now catalyze a generation of artists too young to have experienced modernism firsthand. These artists return to them in a spirit of critique and homage.
The MetaModern exhibition brings together works in a wide range of media by 19 international artists to explore the concept of modernism as a style. Removed from its pristine original context, the modernist aesthetic is examined through the lens of present-day cultural assumptions.
Composition No. 13 (Santa Fe Suite), 2013
50 x 30 inches
Graphite and pastel on paper
Collection of the artist
© Victor Ekpuk
Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk is best known for his improvisational use of nsibidi, an ancient form of ideographic writing associated with Ekpe, a transethnic men’s association active in the border regions of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. As a student of fine arts at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife in the mid-1980s, Ekpuk worked in a pedagogical environment that urged students to explore the logics of pattern and design in indigenous African art forms. Ekpuk’s fascination with nsibidi during these years—its economy of line and encoded meanings—led to his broader explorations of drawing as writing and to the invention of his own fluid letterforms. As a mature artist, Ekpuk has so internalized the rhythm and contours of his “script” that it flows from his hand like the outpouring of a personal archive.
In recent years, Ekpuk’s approach to mark making has come to flourish through his investigations of scale, motion, and form. Auto-Graphics features selections from several of Ekpuk’s new bodies of work, including collage, digital prints, and his supersized drawings—bold, vibrant, yet restrained compositions in which nsibidi signs are magnified, cropped, and glided beyond the picture plane. Their dense grounds of micro-script and bristling opaque forms contrast with the more figural works on view. Like nsibidi, which communicates through both visual mark and physical gesture, Ekpuk’s immersive drawings seem to be choreographed with the full force of his body.
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