Next Wave Nigeria: Nnenna Okore

May 9, 2012 at 11:35 am Leave a comment

Now on view in Present Tense

Art is an extension of my existence. It is stimulating, satisfying, fascinating, and compelling. It is my means of reaching out and speaking to others. I could not express my colors, textures, forms, concepts, identity, culture, and life through a better medium.

Nnenna Okore (b. 1975, Nigeria; lives and works in Chicago) “Dry Season,” 2009 Handmade paper, jute rope, burlap and dye. Purchase 2011 Wallace Scudder Bequest Fund and Eleanor S. Upton Bequest Fund 2011.19 Image courtesy The Newark Museum.

Weaving, twisting, sewing, dyeing, waxing, and rolling basic materials gathered from the street—such as rope, newspaper, and burlap—Nnenna Okore transfigures urban detritus into art. The visceral qualities of her materials are emphasized through her repetitive, labor-intensive artistic process, which mimics both natural and mechanical reproduction. In Dry Season (2009) Okore found inspiration in organic textures, forms, and earthy colors. The installation has an architectural presence that fluidly expands across space, recalling growth and metamorphosis.

Concerned with the culture of recycling in her Nigerian homeland, Nnenna Okore herself uses the flotsam of her environment to create something new, exposing the organic and manmade regenerations (and destructions) occurring throughout our physical world. By laying bare the process behind material transformation, Okore seeks to heighten viewers’ awareness of changes in texture, contour, and movement, inducing reflection on the impact individuals impose on their surroundings.

A former student of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui and a contemporary of Nigerian artist Marcia Kure, Okore now lives in Chicago and teaches in the Art Department at North Park University. Okore will explain how she has transferred her culturally specific artistic process to a new setting when she comes to the museum this Thursday for our NEXT WAVE NIGERIA Artist’s Dialogue. We hope to see you there!

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