ATLANTA —Universal and Sublime: The Vessels of Magdalene Odundo, Kenyan-born British artist Magdalene Odundo’s latest exhibition at The High Museum of Art (June 24 through Oct. 15, 2017) showcases an extraordinary group of terracotta vessels and related works.
Featured image: Magdalene Odundo, Untitled, 1989, burnished and oxidized terracotta
The exhibition traces the trajectory of Odundo’s work over the course of three decades, from its genesis in the early 1980s through her most recent innovations, including new works created especially for the exhibition. Over the years, Odundo’s art has become immediately recognizable for its distinctive, sensuous forms, some of which suggest the human figure. Odundo builds her vessels by hand using a coiling technique and often fires them repeatedly, which results in burnished, silken surfaces ranging from bold orange to smoky, iridescent black.
Odundo’s technical achievements fuse with a distinctly personal style, influenced by sources from across the globe and throughout time. Her ceramics synthesize artistic traditions ranging from Greek and Roman pottery, to Elizabethan costumes, to the art of modern masters Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani, to the spherical vessels African women have made throughout the centuries to carry and store water.
“Her inventive approach to art making combines a mastery of materials and innovative techniques to create a body of work that honors the past but remains very relevant to today’s world.” – Carol Thompson, the High’s Fred and Rita Richman curator of African art.
To provide insights into Odundo’s artistic process, the exhibition includes sketches and select works on paper. A frequent visitor to Atlanta for many years, Odundo has made repeat trips to sketch in the High’s galleries. Drawings from a 2011 sketchbook present several views of an ancient terracotta sculpture in the Museum’s collection, which was made by an artist working during the height of the medieval Empire of Mali in the region of Djenne, one of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa. The ca. 13th–15th-century sculpture shows a female torso wrapped in snakes.
“The sculpture’s graceful female form looks so animated that it nearly seems to dance. Similarly, Odundo’s works feature flowing, dynamic forms that are full of life.” -Thompson.
About the artist: Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1950, Odundo lived her early life in both Kenya and India and moved to England in 1970. She studied ceramics at the West Surrey College of Art and Royal College of Art and has traveled the world studying and researching ceramic techniques, speaking, and conducting workshops. Her art is represented in major museum collections worldwide, including those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and The British Museum. In addition to her many awards, the artist was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List for Services to the Arts in 2008.
Text from The High.
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