High Museum of Art Features Magdalene Odundo Ceramics
June 21, 2017
ATLANTA, June 21, 2017 – The High Museum of Art presents an extraordinary group of terracotta vessels and related works by Magdalene Odundo (British, born Kenya, 1950) in “Universal and Sublime: The Vessels of Magdalene Odundo” (June 24 through Oct. 15, 2017).
The exhibition traces the trajectory of Odundo’s work over the course of three decades, from its genesis in the early 1980s through her most recent innovations, including new works created especially for the exhibition. Over the years, Odundo’s art has become immediately recognizable for its distinctive, sensuous forms, some of which suggest the human figure. Odundo builds her vessels by hand using a coiling technique and often fires them repeatedly, which results in burnished, silken surfaces ranging from bold orange to smoky, iridescent black.
Odundo’s technical achievements fuse with a distinctly personal style, influenced by sources from across the globe and throughout time. Her ceramics synthesize artistic traditions ranging from Greek and Roman pottery, to Elizabethan costumes, to the art of modern masters Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani, to the spherical vessels African women have made throughout the centuries to carry and store water.
“We are so pleased and honored to present Odundo’s truly transcendent work. Her inventive approach to art making combines a mastery of materials and innovative techniques to create a body of work that honors the past but remains very relevant to today’s world,” said Carol Thompson, the High’s Fred and Rita Richman curator of African art. “Odundo’s ceramics resonate with works in the Museum’s historical African art collection, such as an exquisite Mangbetu vessel—a form that Odundo acknowledges has inspired her practice.”
To provide insights into Odundo’s artistic process, the exhibition includes sketches and select works on paper. A frequent visitor to Atlanta for many years, Odundo has made repeat trips to sketch in the High’s galleries. Drawings from a 2011 sketchbook present several views of an ancient terracotta sculpture in the Museum’s collection, which was made by an artist working during the height of the medieval Empire of Mali in the region of Djenne, one of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa. The ca. 13th–15th-century sculpture shows a female torso wrapped in snakes. “The sculpture’s graceful female form looks so animated that it nearly seems to dance. Similarly, Odundo’s works feature flowing, dynamic forms that are full of life,” said Thompson.
For the opening of the exhibition, the High will host a conversation between Odundo and Thompson on June 23, 2017, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Hill Auditorium. Attendees may view the exhibition after the talk.
“Universal and Sublime: The Vessels of Magdalene Odundo” is presented on the second floor of the High’s Anne Cox Chambers Wing.
About Magdalene Odundo
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1950, Odundo lived her early life in both Kenya and India and moved to England in 1970. She studied ceramics at the West Surrey College of Art and Royal College of Art and has traveled the world studying and researching ceramic techniques, speaking, and conducting workshops. Her art is represented in major museum collections worldwide, including those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and The British Museum. In addition to her many awards, the artist was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List for Services to the Arts in 2008.
Exhibition Organization and Support
“Universal and Sublime: The Vessels of Magdalene Odundo” is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. This exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Partner Bank of America; Exhibition Series Sponsors Delta Air Lines, Inc., and Turner; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters Anne Cox Chambers Foundation, the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Jane and Hicks Lanier, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, and wish foundation; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Barbara and Ron Balser, Corporate Environments, Peggy Foreman, James F. Kelly Charitable Trust, The Lubo Fund, Margot and Danny McCaul, and Joyce and Henry Schwob. Generous support is also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Howell Exhibition Fund, and John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund.
About the High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 15,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American art; a substantial collection of historical and contemporary decorative arts and design; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk and self-taught art, and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. Through its education department, the High offers programs and experiences that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit high.org.
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Marci Tate Davis
Manager of Public Relations
High Museum of Art