Ed Cross Fine Art is proud to exhibit new works by Abe Odedina for the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.
This installation welcomes all to Say It Loud – with our voices, bodies, and the power of language within us all: to seduce, to shout, and to communicate. The collection of recent works by Odedina presents a call to action addressing how we may best prepare to survive, protest, and live with purpose during the current conditions of our time. The figures at hand find themselves emboldened physically and emotionally, practicing the power of taking up space. And thus the subjects, frames, and installations comprising this presentation all serve as an exercise in how to claim space in a way that lays a strong foundation whilst reaching nimbly outwards, communicating ideas that bring us closer.
Odedina’s paintings speak through a highly legible allegorical vernacular, warmly hailed as ‘Brixton Baroque’. Their readability is paramount: Odedina’s work is bold and mythical whilst accessible. He describes himself as a folk artist and his practice is inspired by the rich figurative and oral traditions of African art, infused with a trace of magic realism. His practice seeks to revive and deconstruct quintessential classical themes spanning from ancient Greek to Yoruba mythologies to create a charged dialogue between epochs, cultures, and peoples. The stories breaking through the surfaces of his paintings surpass physical borders. They activate a uniquely contemporary conversation that oscillates between life and art, and in the folk tradition, life trumps art. ‘The struggle is to reconcile bold imagery with ideas about ambiguity or indeterminacy. My intention is to arouse the imagination and heart of the viewer and to detonate ideas in another realm.’
This other realm is a space where the Yoruba goddess Oya – Shango’s wife, Mother of Leaves, or Madame de Brigitte as she’s known by Voodoo practitioners from Haiti – reigns supreme. We find her here, looming proudly above the fireplace, in Odedina’s When Push Comes to Shove. With hands on hips, hair coiffed like a crown, she stares out to us, totally in charge. Oya possesses the power to move between worlds, enact change, stir a tempest. She frees caged birds and emboldens women with financial prowess. Surrounded by red wine, plums, and the ever-popular aubergine – we know this is a grown woman whose body is bold and patois is potent. She proves the perfect companion to the James Brown figure appearing in Say it Loud – a meditation upon the impact that words can have. They can be dangerous or liberating, radiate bullets or starbursts. For in a world where politics can be a performance, and performances can be political, it’s worth channelling the energy and stance of our heroes – Oya, James Brown – and take up space.
The space created channels Odedina’s distinct ideology of ‘soft power’, where actions and words ultimately pulse a sense of responsibility. In Clean Hands Dirty Feet we perceive a concluding ode to the importance of working hard and together – traversing through contested landscapes with the courage and honesty of dirty feet, yet with the integrity and honour of clean hands. Here we are offered a way to be agents of change – even salvation – together through our bodies, languages, and the spaces that we may proudly claim physically, politically, and spiritually.
Text by Katherine Finerty
Abe Odedina (b. 1960, Ibadan, Nigeria, lives in London and Salvador Bahia) is a trained architect who started painting on a trip to Brazil in 2007. Now a full-time painter, Odedina works with acrylic on plywood, making flat surfaces with vibrant, stylised subjects that delight in the use of colour and celebrate the power of both the everyday and the mythical.
Solo exhibitions: EYE TO EYE, Copeland Gallery, London (2016), HI-LIFE, Brixton East (2014); Under the Influence, Aldeburgh Beach Lookout (2013); and Recent Paintings, Snape Maltings Gallery, Suffolk (2013). Group exhibitions: Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy (2017), Brixton Design Trail, Street Gallery (2015); Global Artists Consortium, Knight Webb Gallery (2013); and BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London (2013), for which Odedina was nominated for his diptych painting The Adoration of Frida. Odedina has also been commissioned by director Danny Boyle and the South African charity Dramatic Need to create a new body of work for the digital set of The Children’s Monologues, showing at Carnegie in New York City 13th November.
Ed Cross Fine Art was established in 2009 and is based in London. The gallery works with leading emerging curators and represents international artists, in particular those of African descent, whose practices engage in significant global conversations today.
Katherine Finerty (b. New York City, lives and works in London) is an independent curator focusing on socially-activated practices, translocal identity politics, and contemporary African art. She holds an MA in Curating from the Royal College of Art