Opening at Skoto Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 5FL., New York, NY 10011April 12 at 6:00pm until May 12 at 8:00pm
|Oba Ovonramwen of Benin, Nigeria (1888-1914), 2011, reclaimed plastic, metal and wood, 84x66x66 inches.|
Osaretin Ighile’s recent sculpture employs strategies that grasp notions of artworks as conceptual totalities, multivalent narratives crafted from a variety of approaches, not just single images that express big ideas about humanity. His work is informed by a sophisticated discourse on traditional philosophical concepts, a deep understanding of the aesthetic and cultural character of the African continent as well as an invigorating inclination and facility with various materials and methods. By inventively handling his material within a formalist sculptural framework, combined with a highly developed experimental approach to making art, he creates work that is unorthodox, persistently innovative, and ignores boundaries between different cultural heritages and socially constructed constraints.
Osaretin Ighile was born 1965 in Benin City, Nigeria. He studied sculpture, painting and performance at Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi (1987), and at the University of Benin (1990), in Nigeria before leaving for the US in early 1990s. He obtained his MFA (Sculpture) at Queens College, New York in 2011. Exhibitions include Treasure House, Lagos, 1986; The Burden of an Era, NYC, 2005, Dakar Biennial, Dakar, Senegal, 2008; Africa Now, World Bank, Washington DC, 2009. He is in several private and public collections in the US and abroad including Blachere Foundation, Apt, France, Treasure House, Lagos; French Embassy, Lagos, Nigeria
In this exhibition, the artist revisits the history of the ancient Benin Kingdom in Nigeria with an emotionally charged sculptural installation titled Oba Ovonramwen, 2011- the valiant Oba whose resistance to British imperialism led to his death in exile in 1914, the looting of his capital and the destruction of the Benin kingdom that had been in existence since the 13th Century. Upon their advent in London after the infamous British Expedition in 1897, Benin’s royal arts were a topic of conversation and speculation. They sparked immediate interest from major museums and collectors across Europe and the US. Today, Benin bronzes are among the most exquisite and coveted in world's history and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization.
Osaretin Ighile’s uses mundane materials such as burnt wood, cut-up plastic crates and metal to create work that is evocative of the pomp, pageantry and historical myths surrounding the deposed ruler. He is among a generation of artists who no longer view colonialism as a constant source of trauma, drawing on a profound understanding of his culture, his openness to the world and to diversity, as he re-works art historical tropes for a complex investigation of the mutable meaning of artistic border in a global world. By linking past and present in a visually cohesive context that simultaneously preserve an overall fluency, beauty and humor he encourages us to explore possibilities of how to understand the world, how to contemplate the world and how to express the world. His work has benefited from a growing international awareness of contemporary African art that has advanced so dramatically in recent years, exposing him to greater possibilities for new aesthetic thinking. What often seeps through his work is a playfulness that comes out of the originality of his artistic strategies.