Victor Ekpuk to create a 30-by-18-foot site-specific drawing at the North Carolina Museum of Art Raleigh, NC, from June 5 to 9, 2017. The ephemeral chalk drawing will be on view for a full year, beginning when the gallery opens at the end of June. Ekpuk’s creation will be fully documented during its installation and de-installation, including streaming live online for the public to watch remotely.
“We are honoured that internationally acclaimed artist Victor Ekpuk will contribute to and be prominently featured in our reinstalled African art gallery,” says Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the NCMA. “The large-scale installation will highlight the grandeur of the new East Building gallery and emphasize the NCMA’s commitment to accentuating Africa’s role as a nexus of contemporary art.”
The NCMA’s expanded African art gallery incorporates African and African diasporic modern and contemporary art, so that visitors can enjoy African creativity spanning 16 centuries, from 600 to present day.
Following the opening of the new gallery in June, the Museum will host a series of summer and fall programs celebrating African art, culminating in a large community event in September. The event series, which will be announced soon, features family activities, performing arts, and panel discussions, one for which the artist will return to the NCMA to participate.
During Ekpuk’s visit he will meet with 10 emerging artists in a two-day NCMA college workshop. Using his work as an inspiration, the students will work with the artist and UNC–Chapel Hill professor Lien Truong to create mixed-media works that explore transcultural identity and experience. On the second day of the workshop, the emerging artists, local artists, reinstallation curator, and educators will attend a lunch and discussion with Ekpuk.
Guided by the aesthetic philosophy of nsibidi in which sign systems are used to convey ideas, the artist reimagines graphic symbols from diverse cultures to form a personal style of mark making that results in the interplay of art and writing. Ekpuk has said, “The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture, and identity.”
In June 2018 Ekpuk’s large-scale drawing will be washed off the wall. The process will be documented and will provide another moment for the North Carolina community to think about the meaning of memory and artistic expression.
Reinstallation curator Elizabeth Perrill sees the ephemeral nature of Ekpuk’s installation as “a poetic tie to both the history of many Africa art forms and the conceptual nature of contemporary art practice.” “In the NCMA reinstallation, visitors have the chance to see ephemeral masquerades from Burkina Faso in a video shown in the gallery. The 15-foot-tall masquerades could never be owned by a museum, but they are some of the most spectacular performances in Western Africa. The artist’s installation echoes traditions of deliberately poetic and ephemeral art; it also asks what memory is and to think about the trace artists leave on our society”, Says Perill.
Victor Ekpuk was born in 1964 in Nigeria, and holds a bachelor degree in fine and applied art from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. His work frequently explores the human condition of identity in society and draws upon a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses. He has featured in several international exhibitions including Storylines: Drawings of Victor Ekpuk, Montgomery College, College Park, Maryland, USA (2005); Beyond Boundaries – mapping currents at the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, China (2009); Le Temps De L’Eau, Musée des Tapisseries, Aix en Provence, France (2012); Dakar Biennale, Dakar Senegal (2014); 12th Havana Biennale, Havana, Cuba (2015); Portraits, Sulger Buel-Lovell Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2016); These Moments, Morton Fine Art Washington DC, United States (2017); and Treasures of Islam In Africa From Timbuktu to Zanzibar, Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris, France (2017).