The Underground Museum
Opens Spring 2019
Los Angeles, CA
About the Exhibition
In 2019, The Underground Museum (The UM) will present a solo exhibition of painting and architectural installations by London and Salvador Bahia-based artist, Abe Odedina. Odedina creates portraits of everyday folks using bright, vibrant colors applied directly to plywood. His subjects' expressions, gestures and surrounding supernatural environments are a salute to magic realism. Boxers, dancers, clowns, grandmothers, and little children are protagonists of a spirit world whom Odedina lovingly connects to our very real, and soulful human condition.
The UM's exhibition will chronical Odedina's journey from classically-trained architect to self-defined artist. This includes a discussion of what it means to be 'folk,' and how that term is applied both in contemporary art and community life. What are the visual signifiers that represent both of these spheres, and how might such signifiers be translated to the 'folk' of Los Angeles? In particular, the folk of the neighborhood immediately surrounding The Underground Museum?
Programming accompanying the exhibition will focus on the rich tradition of magic realism in literature, film and performing arts. The UM is particularly interested in ways that humanism and spirituality intersects with social structures, and the collision of visual art with ethnographic studies. Similar storytellers will be invited to work through Odedina's themes, including movies from across the African and Latin American diaspora, plus performances and workshops that get bodies moving through spiritual practice.
The UM has become a hub for Los Angeles' vibrant black avant-garde scene—musicians, poets, filmmakers, and artists are meeting and gathering at the museum with increasing regularity because of the kinds of conversations and inspiration generated by The UM's guiding ethos. Odedina's practice connects to this matrix with familial ease. His paintings are starting points for a discussion about how black culture is captured and historicized, and how a collection of artworks might be defined not by established art world conventions, but by the actual impact that the works have on their audiences. In this way, Odedina's practice expands how we think about the painting genre, and what is possible within the form.
Abe Odedina was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1960 and currently lives in London and Salvador Bahia.
Odedina, who is a trained architect, started painting on a trip to Brazil in 2007 where he fell under the spell of the popular arts of Bahia and Pernambuco. Now a full-time painter, Odedina describes himself as a folk artist. The ideas inspiring his work are rooted in the rich figurative and oral traditions of African art, infused with a trace of magic realism. His work is exuberantly non-elitist, celebrating the power of the everyday and the mythical.
Odedina paints with acrylic on plywood, making flat surfaces with vibrant, stylized subjects that delight in the use of colour and symbols to create a figurative and imaginative pictorial statement. Odedina's bold and hybrid visual language conjures energy from the streets and surfaces from cities like Lagos, Salvador de Bahia, and Port-au-Prince: the walls of temples, beer parlours, and love motels – advertisements for barbers, vulcanizers, and healers.