Moshewka Langa, “Dawn”, 2003. Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 93 inches Moshewka Langa, “Flatten”, 2003. Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 93 inches most striking installations, the one that makes the most of the exhibition’s questioning of African authenticity. Odili Donald Odita, born in Nigeria, raised in Ohio, and now living in Florida, has a set of sketches and a wall full of paintings that are in dialogue with each other. The sketches are drawings Odita made during a visit to Nigeria. They show street musicians, young students of the Koran, and a masked woman, among other faces. Some women are dressed more or less in Western style. One drawing is a palimpsest. Beneath a drawing of a woman in a business suit, we see the same woman dressed in tribal robes, wearing large, hooped earrings. These depictions capture a complex reality. Africa is tribal. Africa is Muslim. Africa is modern. \(Actually, I guess I should But the curators have gone one step further by having the large, abstract paintings that Odita made in the United States face the sketches; one set of images challenges the other. The abstracts feature sharp-edged, diagonal, and diamond-shaped figures in a variety of colors, some of which \(such as ochre, a seem to evoke Africa. \(The catalog says part is American, and what part is simply Odita? These are questions without answers, of course, and that’s the point. None of the other artists takes on the issues the exhibition wants to raise quite so directly. Instead, some of the artists toy with prefab notions of what it means to be “African.” Moshekwa Langa, from South Africa and Amsterdam, has created a series of large-scale paintings that tell a fictional “origin of man” story, which plays off of the idea that Africa is indeed the mother continent of us all. Langa’s figures are flat and aboriginal looking, but have a bemused modernity to them. The male figure in “Lame Lamb,” which shows Langa’s version of Adam and Eve, has a sort of cockeyed look to him, as if he’s asking himself. “How the heck did I wind up in an ‘origin of man’ story?” Siemon Allen, a South African now living in Virginia, raises the question of how much attention the West really pays to his home country. He fills a wall with pages from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that include references to South Africa that are highlighted. At first his idea seems glib. How much copy should the St. Louis Post-Dispatch devote to South Africa? It’s a big world. But examining the features that made the paper opened these colors also refer to the “American The juxtaposition of Nigerian drawings and modernist abstractions by the same artist provide a dose of visual pleasure and raise the following questions: What part of the art is African, what OCTOBER 20, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.