Skoto Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of early works on paper from 1958-1993 by the prominent Nigerian-born artist Uche Okeke. This will be his first New York solo show since his critically acclaimed exhibition ‘Another Modernity: Works on Paper by Uche Okeke” at the Newark Museum in 2006. The reception is on Thursday, January 15th, 6-8pm.
A leading light in the Zaria Art Society founded by a group of young artists at the National College of Arts and Science, Zaria, Uche Okeke emerged as an integral figure in the development of Nigerian art in the late 1950s. The Art Society’s readiness to expand on notions that art practice should be appraised within the exigency of its time gave meaning and elaboration to the fertile ideas and existential realities of an emergent post-colonial generation at the dawn of independence in 1960. In search for new post-colonial identity, they sought methods and new approach to materials that explored the plastic and conceptual potential of indigenous African, non-Western and European artistic traditions as springboard for contemporary practice. This philosophical principle which Uche Okeke formally articulated as "Natural Synthesis" was extremely influential in creating an artistic agenda and identity in post-colonial Nigeria.
Renowned for his immense contribution to the development of post-colonial aesthetics and artistic ideology during the 1960s decade of independence and liberation movements in Africa, Uche Okeke’s early drawings are pure meditations upon the nature of line itself. A pioneer modernist, theorist and poet with an eloquent grasp and strong commitment to the idea of synthesis and adaptation of indigenous forms in modern art, his ground-breaking visual experimentations with subject matter and style drawn from his Igbo heritage combined with techniques of art history are personal testimonies of struggle with form and context layered with psychological and intellectual references to the individual, community, and history. A master of lyrical and sensitive lines, he uses resplendent curves and fluid lines to convey the true harmonies of his artistic vision. His work utilizes a particular rigor and economy of line that encourages clarity of intent and simplicity of execution.
Uche Okeke was born 1933 in Nimo, Nigeria, and trained at the Nigerian College of Art and Technology, Zaria in 1957-62. He also studied stain glass and mosaic techniques at the Franz Mayer Studio, Munich, Germany in 1963. He was a member of the Mbari Mbayo Artists and Writers Workshop, Ibadan; and directed the Mbari Art Center, Enugu, 1964-67. In 1970, he joined the faculty of the Department of Fine Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he taught until his retirement in the late 1980s. Exhibitions include Afro-Modern: Journeys through Black Atlantic, Tate Modern, Liverpool, 2010; Musee de l’Homme, Paris, 1972; Hamons Foundation, New York, 1964; Sao Paolo Biennale, 1961; British Council, Kano, 1958. Collections include Asele Institute, Nimo Nigeria; National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos; OYASAF, Foundation, Lagos; Nigeria; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Newark Museum, NJ. Awards include the Presidential Award-MFR 2001; Federal Government of Nigeria Award for distinguished service in Arts and Culture and the Yusuf Grillo Pavilion Visual Arts Fiesta Award, Lagos in 2012.