Salon 94 proudly presented acclaimed ceramist Magdalene A.N. Odundo DBE. This will be Odundo’s first solo show in New York City since her exhibition at Anthony Ralph Gallery in 1991. New Work by Magdalene A.N. Odundo DBE features ten large terracotta vessels made over the last five years, fresh from firings over the beginning months of 2021 seen in full glory in the gallery’s spectacular new townhouse space.
Both putative vessels and abstract sculptures, her works are ceremonial and hint at the origins of function. Composed in elemental materials of English red clay and water, her seemingly effortless sculptures are months in the making. Odundo does not use a pottery wheel, but rather hand-builds her vessels with coils, an age-old technique she learned in the early 1970s from Nigerian women potters. Through a careful process of smoothing the surface and adding slip of the same clay, the British artist manipulates her medium when the clay is both soft and hard, alternating between symmetrical and asymmetrical forms.
Once the clay is leather-hard, Odundo burnishes its surface with stones, polishing tools, and gourds to obtain a high-gloss finish. These instruments leave their own residue on the surfaces, or a careful cut around the lip. The first pots out of the kiln maintain her trademark orange and display deep, smoky, iridescent blacks that are more painterly in this year’s works than ever before. While the deep red-orange of the clay oxidizes in a single firing, the black effects occur through further reduction firings, wood-burning, and Odundo’s specific, nearly alchemical process, honed through years of ceramic experimentation.
The astonishing symmetry of her work could be likened to the production of early Ferraris, whose elegant bodies were handmade so that “no two Ferraris are the same”—their streamlined perfection achieved only by hand. Gus Casely-Hayford OBE writes: “She creates work of such completeness that it gives the uncanny impression of being born and not made. In a single line or shape, dialectical oppositions might be imploded in her hands. Her pots’ small bulges, ripe with possibility, heavy with hunger, sublimate death into life and pain into beauty.”
Learn more about Odundo in Cfile.