This winter, Elmhurst Art Museum will open On the Brink: New Work by Nnenna Okore, the first solo museum exhibition in the Chicago area for the internationally celebrated sculptor. Nnenna Okore creates striking, abstract wall hangings and installations of fiber and paper that explore the delicate and cyclical nature of life. Informed by the textures, colors and landscapes of her childhood home of Nsukka, Nigeria, as well as the environs of her current Midwestern home, Okore blends the visual qualities of her past and present to highlight the sublime in the broken down state.
Okore's work is unabashedly handcrafted and labor-intensive. Her rhythmic methods of fraying, twisting, wrapping, weaving, sewing and dyeing are all drawn from her childhood experiences in Nsukka, where she sometimes watched artisans fabricating household items like brooms from palm fronds or participated in daily manual activities such as cooking, harvesting and preparing food (cassava tuber) from scratch. Okore's artistic practice embodies a complete understanding of and commitment to the patient process of material transformation.
Okore received a BA in Painting from the University of Nigeria and an MA and MFA in Sculpture at the University of Iowa. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at North Park University, Chicago, and was a 2013 recipient of the Fulbright Scholar Award.
Okore recently had a solo exhibition at David Krut Projects in New York and will be the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, IL. Recent exhibitions include Metamorphoses at the October Gallery in London; Textile at the Blachère Fondation Art Center in Apt, France; Environment and Object in Recent African Art at Middlebury College Museum of Art in Vermont; the Tang Museum, Skidmore College; and the 29th Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
On the Brink was curated by EAM Chief Curator Staci Boris and will be on view at Elmhurst Art Museum February 7 to May 3, 2015. The Opening Program, A Conversation Between Artists Nnenna Okore and Michelle Grabner, will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 7. For more information please visit www.elmhurstartmuseum.org.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Nnenna Okore, Onwa N'etilu Ora, 2013. Newspapers and acrylic (photo courtesy of the Elmhurst Art Museum).