Biography

Born in 1966 in Enugu, Nigeria, Odili Donald Odita explores color both in the figurative art historical context as well as in the sociopolitical sense, expressing his desire to highlight Africa and its wealth of culture.According to the artist: “color in itself has the possibility of mirroring the complexity of the world as much as it has the potential for being distinct. The organization and patterning in the paintings are of my own design. I continue to explore in the paintings a metaphoric ability to address the human condition through pattern, structure and design, as well as for its possibility to trigger our memory. The colors I use are personal: they reflect the collection of visions from my travels locally and globally. This is also one of the hardest aspects of my work as I try to derive the colors intuitively, hand-­mixing and coordinating them along the way. In my process, I cannot make a color twice – it can only appear to be the same. This aspect is important to me as it highlights the specificity of differences that exist in the world of people and things“.
Odita’s work has been displayed in solo exhibitions in museums and institutions across the globe. In recent years, Odita has been commissioned to paint several large-­scale wall installations for instituions including The United States Mission at the United Nations in New York (2011), theSavannah College of Art and Design (2012), , New Orleans Museum of Art (2011), Kiasma, Helsinki (2011).  The artist has been the recipient of a Penny McCall Foundation Grant in 1994, a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant in 2001 and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant in 2007. Also in 2007, his large installation Give Me Shelter was featured prominently in the 52nd Venice Biennale exhibition Think With The Senses, Feel With the Mind, curated by Robert Storr.
Odili Donald Odita lives and works in Philadelphia, where he is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at Tyler School of Art, Temple University.

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Gallery Exhibition

M77 Gallery presents the exhibition The Differend, a solo show by painter Odili Donald Odita. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, Odita lives and works in the United States, in Philadelphia and New York. His work includes references to the experience of Afro-American abstract artists in the ‘70s and ’80s, and it explores dimensions of colour as developed throughout the history of landscape and figurative art, but also according to an idealistic sense of socio-political interpretation. The exhibition presents a selection of worksmade especially for the show. They include a site-specific work, a large wall-painting, a genre for which Odita is particularly famous and appreciated, which entirely covered one of the walls of M77 Gallery. The exhibition’s name comes from the title of the eponymous book by philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1998): “differend” (difference of opinion, disagreement) is a term of french origin that marks the moment at which language becomes insufficient for communication. According to Lyotard, the meaning of a sentence cannot be established on the basis of the facts to which it refers: reality is a conglomerate of possible meanings, linked to reality through words. Therefore language is inadequate to describe and understand the world, and the true meaning of every sentence will always remain indeterminate. Odita borrows this relativistic approach from verbal language and applies it to pictorial language, giving colours the same multiplicity of meanings that Lyotard assigned to words. Odili Donald Odita uses colour as a metaphor of cultural codes: the tones that he creates have the objective of striking familiar chords in the observer, encouraging mental associations and becoming a reflection of the world’s complexity. Odita has a dual heredity, Western and African, and he brilliantly combines them in his visual compositions, crossing frontiers into unexplored territories. Abandoning the idea of a central focal point in the image, Odita invites observers to move and modify their viewpoint. This opens multiple perspectives of ever-changing colour, giving the painting a sculptural, three-dimensional effect. Odita structures the image from inside, creating intersecting geometries in contrasting hues. They are flat fields, wedges of colour that split and expand, with repetition and changing forms generating pulsating rhythms. The artist says: “The colors I use are personal: they reflect the collection of visions from my travels locally and globally. This is also one of the hardest aspects of my work as I try to derive the colors intuitively, hand-mixing and coordinating them along the way. In my process, I cannot make a color twice – it can only appear to be the same. This aspect is important to me as it highlights the specificity of differences that exist in the world of people and things.” A world of differences, which can return to unity through art: for Odili Donald Odita, beauty is that which creates awareness of, and brings you closer to, the idea of a united humanity.