The Dorsky Museum announces “Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists”

Nenna Okore, “Rooted,” 2017, burlap, jute string, dye and wire,
60 x 62 x 15 in., courtesy the artist.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz is pleased to present “Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists,” a new exhibition that shows how contemporary African artists are using abstraction to create works that are thematically or conceptually connected to the continent, and as a way of engaging in a broader conversation about art.

Curated by Osi Audu, an artist and independent curator, “Abstract Minded” will be on view at the Dorsky Museum from Jan. 24 – April 15, 2018, in the Alice and Horace Chandler gallery and North Gallery. A public opening reception will be held Feb. 10 from 5 – 7 p.m.

“Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists” does more than look for the African in African art; it asks questions about what contemporary African art is, and what it does, in our increasingly global socio-cultural landscape.

For the six artists in this exhibition, all born and/or raised in countries in Africa, aesthetic engagement with form is as important as their works’ symbolic, historical, political or conceptual significance.

Osi Audu’s work, described by R.C. Baker as “shape-shifting…space-warping geometric abstraction”, examines complex issues of self-identity and the relationship between the dual aspects of the self (the tangible and intangible), by referencing the Yoruba thought that the human head has both a spiritual dimension (the “inner Head”) and a physical one (the “outer head”).

Nicholas Hlobo uses stitching and color on paper and other materials, producing abstract forms that could be interpreted as an unconscious attempt to stitch together his divided South Africa. His repetitive process of ‘suturing’ appears to seek the healing of deep wounds; a portrait of a nation at once frightening and beautiful.

Serge Alain Nitegeka, born in Burundi, is inspired by his love of the industrial infrastructure he finds in his home city of Johannesburg, South Africa. His work describes “the long and broad highways, complex flyovers, elaborate use of cast concrete on roads and skyscrapers, and the grid layout of the city centre.”

Odili Donald Odita uses color and pattern to produce visually captivating paintings as a metaphor for his personal experiences and travels, expressing a “desire to speak positively about Africa, and its rich culture.”

Nnenna Okore’s creative process, informed by the technical practices (weaving, rolling, waxing, twisting, dyeing and sewing) she learned from villagers in her native Nigeria, repurposes discarded materials to create entrancing webs of lines and colors that critique the culture of consumption she observes in her homeland.

Elias Simé draws inspiration from the Addis Mercato, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, widely considered the largest and most vibrant open-air marketplace in Africa. He uses discarded electrical equipment and detritus to produce a patchwork of images and experiences described by Quinn Latimer as “the feverish fusion of a multivalent society.”

Elias Simé, “Tightrope 2.2,” 2009-2014, reclaimed electrical components and fiberglass on panel,
67.75 x 95.5 in., courtesy the artist.

More information about this exhibition is available on the Dorsky Museum website.

Organized by Michaela Mosher for The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, Detroit, Mich.

Through its collections, exhibitions and public programs, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz supports and enriches the academic programs at the College, presents a broad range of world art for study and enjoyment and serves as a center for Hudson Valley arts and culture. The museum is widely recognized as the premier public showplace for exhibition, education and cultural scholarship about the Hudson Valley region’s art and artists from yesterday and today. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, The Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums in the SUNY system. Since its official dedication on Oct. 20, 2001, The Dorsky has presented more than 100 exhibitions, including commissions, collection-based projects and in-depth studies of contemporary artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, Carolee Schneemann and Ushio Shinohara.

Museum Hours:
Wednesday–Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Holidays and Intersessions

For more information about The Dorsky Museum and its programs, visit or call (845) 257-3844.