Africa and Abstraction: Mancoba, Odita, Blom
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Published to accompany the gallery’s Art Feature presentation at Art 43 Basel, this catalogue shows the work of two contemporary African abstract painters, Odili Donald Odita and Zander Blom, alongside their most significant predecessor, Ernest Mancoba. It includes in-depth interviews with each artist – Mancoba interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Odita by Robert Hobbs, and Blom by (New York band) The Hundred In The Hands. From the introduction:
Rather than its association with Europe, and later New York, it is the universal aspiration of modernism that has led Mancoba, Odita and Blom to explore its potential. In Mancoba’s words, “For me, art can only be founded on the single notion – of which it is both the confirmation and the proof – that Man is One.” Odita, too, has expressed a “fascination with the United Nations and the international style [in architecture] that coexists with this philosophy, and the conceptualisation of the world as a united space”. Rooted in a strong interest in the history of modernism, Blom has set out to teach himself to paint from scratch. The products of this process are about form as much as they are about art history.
The three artists differ in their primary points of investigation. Mancoba suggests figuration in his abstract compositions, and is interested in the spiritual power of the image. Odita concentrates on colour and geometric form, and Blom seeks to understand the medium of painting itself. They share, however, a belief in the potential of abstraction and deep formalist concerns, making them part of a very particular trajectory in art history, one informed by a connection to their home continent yet rooted in a universal conversation.