Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ramez Elias, artist, designer, RIP

It is with deep sorrow that we, the editors of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, mourn the death of Ramez Elias, who passed away on Thursday April 21st, 2016 in Paris, France. Ramez was the designer of Nka for the last 16 years. A remarkably talented artist, Ramez has left an indelible mark on the design of Nka, shaping its character, as not only a leading journal, but also an elegant one in the field of contemporary and African and African diaspora art. Ramez was not just a brilliant designer; he was a dear friend. He was generous, kind hearted, and a very caring human being. Words fail us about our loss and sadness. But here at Nka, we shall continue to build on the design vision you established and which has taken us this far.
          Ramez studied at the American University in Cairo (AUC), before moving to Ithaca where he had lived since 1994. He was a multi-talented and creative individual, who besides being a designer, was also gifted theater actor who performed with groups such as Al Warsha, an experimental theater company based in Cairo, Egypt. Ramez hailed from a prominent Egyptian family which played a pioneering role in the rise of the independent publishing industry in Egypt since the early part of the 20th Century. His grandfather Elias Anton Elias, a well known modernist intellectual and the author of one of the first Arabic-English dictionaries in Egypt, was the founder of the Elias Modern Publishing House in 1913, which has contributed tremendously to publishing in the fields of literature, art and children books.
         Our sincere condolences to our friend Natalie Melas, Ramez’s wife, and to his brother Nadim Elias and his wife Laura Elias, and to his nephews Sammy and Karim, his niece Nada El Omari, and to brother-in-law Majdi El Omari, and the extended family in Egypt. 
Rest in peace Ramez. Your memory and the beauty you brought to our lives will forever stay with us, and guide us to better horizons. 

Okwui Enwezor
Salah M. Hassan
Chika Okeke-Agulu
(Editors, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Invitation to Wole Soyinka's Toni Morrison Lectures @ Princeton

Please join us for The 2016 Toni Morrison Lecture Series featuring the writer Wole Soyinka. Wole Soyinka has been described as ‘Nigeria’s national conscience.’ He is a professor, activist, playwright, critique and poet. His work often tells stories of democracy, government, religion, and tensions around tradition and progress. He is concerned with "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it." He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986. Soyinka is the first African laureate.

The series of lectures Wole Soyinka will deliver next week is called Commencement Rites at the Tree of Creativity. The talks take place Monday, April 18th; Tuesday, April 19th; and Wednesday, April 20th all starting at 5:30 pm. These lectures are free and open to the public, in McCosh Hall, Room 10. No tickets are required.

April 18th at 5:30 p.m.
‘In Praise – and Dread – of Trees’
Introduction by Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu

April 19th at 5:30 p.m.
‘Sweet are the Uses of Diversity’
Introduction by Professor Simon Gikandi

April 20th at 5:30 p.m.
‘As It Was in the Beginning’
Introduction by Professor Wendy Laura Belcher

The Toni Morrison Lectures are sponsored by the Department of African American Studies and Princeton University Press. The lectures are held annually and spotlight the new and exciting work of scholars and writers who have risen to positions of prominence both in academe and in the broader world of letters.

The lectures are published in book form by Princeton University Press and celebrate the expansive literary imagination, intellectual adventurousness and political insightfulness that characterize the writing of Toni Morrison.

The talks will be streamed live each night: https://livestream.com/aas21/wolesoyinka and on the African American Studies website aas.princeton.edu/livestream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wole Soyinka Delivers Toni Morrison Lectures @ Princeton, April 18-20

Three Lectures in Three Days, by Nigeria's Nobel Laureate and literary giant, Wole Soyinka. This should be a memorable event!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Seminar with Claudette Schreuders @ Princeton

Seminar class (l-r): Robia Amjad, Zeena Mubarak, Claudette Schreuders, Zach Feig, Jessica Lu, Fitsum Petros, Vincent Karuri. All photos: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Yesterday, the South African artist Claudette Schreuders, whose latest exhibition, Note to Self, opened last week at Jack Shainman Gallery, in New York City, participated as a guest in my "Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa" undergraduate seminar. Previous guests have included Ibrahim El Salahi, Jerry Buhari, El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, Julie Mehretu, Ghada Amer, and Paul Stopforth, Next week, Victor Ekpuk, and in April, Lara Baladi. The idea of having this caliber of artists, whose work I could never learn enough about, in a small, intimate seminar with undergraduate students, is one of the reasons teaching still makes sense to me. And this is all thanks to the artists for accepting my invitation. Anyways, here are some pictures from yesterday:

Saturday, February 6, 2016

CAA 2016 Award Ceremony photos

The Award Ceremony of the 104th College Art Association Annual Conference took place at the Marriott Wardman Park, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. Of course I am biased, but it was a great evening--a night when scholars, curators, and artists are acknowledged and celebrated for their work by their peers. For me, the event was an opportunity to express my gratitude to some of the people who in different ways contributed to my work and career: Obiora Udechukwu and El Anatsui (my teachers in art school who instilled in me the idea of art making as an intellectual journey); Lagos-based journalists Toyin Akinosho and Kunle Ajibade (who gave me my first opportunities to write art criticism in Lagos in the early 1990s); the poet Ada Udechukwu, and art historians Sidney Kasfir and James Meyer who made me a better writer; Hal Foster, who remains my model as a critic-art historian; and especially my two brothers and co-travelers Okwui Enwezor and Salah Hassan, with whom I began the critical journey in 1993 when Okwui convened a group of us to establish Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. They kept faith with that dream, particularly through the difficult years. Finally, the award for me is a celebration of the memory of the legendary artist Uche Okeke (1933-2016), a key subject of my book, who died in Nigeria on Jan. 5, the same day my award was announced. Opening up his archive to me made my book possible.

Anyways, here as some photos from the night.
Krista Thompson of Northwestern University, who won the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, at the afternoon reception hosted by Linda Downs, the CAA Executive President

Krista with Dewitt Godfrey, CAA President

Linda Downs (r), with a CAA member

CAA Fellows

Krista receiving her award

From right: Artist Victor Ekpuk, moi, Cornell University's Salah Hassan, and artist Tania Bruguera who gave the keynote lecture

Eminent art historian and Columbia University professor, Rosalind Krauss, who received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement for Writing on Art award

Audience at the reception

Selfie with Tania

From Left: Victor, Salah, art historians Terry Smith (University of Pittsburgh), and Frieda High Tesfagiorgis (formerly of University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Art historians, Eddie Chambers (University of Texas-Austin) and Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Princeton)

Salah and Terry

Selfie with Krista 

Selfie with Terry

Salah, moi, Victor

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Claudette Schreuders opening at Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC

Claudette Schreuders
Note to Self
February 4 - March 12, 2016
Opening reception for the exhibition: Thursday, February 4th, 6-8pm
524 West 24th Street
Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present Claudette Schreuders’ fifth solo exhibition with the gallery, whose intimately scaled lithographs and sculptures speak to the ambiguities of the search for a South African identity in the post-apartheid era. Featuring a new group of painted and carved busts, Note to Self reflects the artist’s diverse trove of personal and creative touchstones. The resulting body of work is both a tribute to these influences, as well as an opportunity to explore the uncanny intricacies of portraiture in wood.
The titular work of the exhibition depicts the artist standing, a paint-splattered apron tied around her waist, a sketchbook and pencil in hand. Her face looks out past the viewer, as if to pause between thoughts or summon inspiration from the well of individuals behind her, which include the musician Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, the painters Alice Neel, Balthus, and Paula Modersohn Becker, and several family members. Note to Self, 2015 is grounded firmly on the floor, while the menagerie of faces float on pedestals of varying heights, a retinue of inspiration made manifest from the annals of memory and creativity.
Balthus’ presence in the exhibition extends beyond the wooden likeness of him. Known for depicting domestic interiors and dreamlike nudes, he is a clear artistic predecessor, infusing Scheuders’ soft lines and delicate portraits. The 20th-century French painter’s presence is perhaps most explicitly felt in representations of full figures. The diminutive Loved Ones, 2012, a girl, nude except for a blue school uniform skirt and grey sandals, formally alludes to Balthus’ painting, Young Girl with White Skirt, 1955, while her big brown eyes reveal an inner complexity. Lithographs (such as Mirror, 2015, a take on Balthus’ Nude Before a Mirror, 1955) document poignant bodies, dense and round. Their unselfconscious imperfection renders them vulnerable.
The appearance of fellow South Africans, Marlene Dumas, Bessie Head, Anton Kannemeyer, Nelson Mandela, and Brett Murray, shed further light on the genesis of the artist’s unique biography, born to Dutch parents in Pretoria. The amalgam of individuals underscores a long-held interest in how the fabric of a place shapes a person:
It's portraiture, but it's a vehicle for telling a particular story, or the way in which society makes people who they are, or the group against the individual. As soon as you make a figure, it has an identity…
For Schreuders, a single portrait alludes to the particular web of individuals who impact the person represented. If the staggered installation of wood figures brings to mind the famous exaltation, “be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid,” the exhibition as a whole is a deeply personal portrait of the artist, annotated with the people and relationships that made the physical work in the gallery space possible. Note to Self encourages us to cite our influences proudly, and most importantly, to keep them close. 
Born in 1973 in Pretoria, South Africa, Claudette Schreuders now lives and works in Cape Town. Her work is featured in collections around the world, with a strong presence in major New York City institutions, including both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, where a suite of her lithographs were part of Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now in 2011.
Schreuders has shown extensively in international exhibitions that address themes of childhood, intimacy, and lingering tensions in a post-colonial world, such as Disturbing Innocence, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, New York (2015), Prose/Re-Prose: Figurative Works Then and Now, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia (2012), The Rainbow Nation, The Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, Netherlands (2012), and Artist in Residence: Claudette Schreuders at LUX Art Institute, Encinitas, California (2011).
Concurrently on view is Of a Different Nature, featuring the work of El Anatsui, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Maya Lin at 513 West 20th Street and a group exhibition, Winter in America, at The School in Kinderhook, NY. Upcoming exhibitions include Barkley L. Hendricks at our 24th Street gallery and Malick Sidibé at 20th Street, both opening March 17, 2016. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm. For additional information and photographic material, please contact the gallery at info@jackshainman.com.