Odili Donald Odita New paintings, mixed media works and digitally manipulated photographs investigated the relationship between aesthetic traditions and cultural codes through the language of colors. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, and brought to America by his parents when he was only six months old, right after the Biafran war, Odita was raised in the Midwest assimilating important aspects of postmodern America, its myths and cultural languages, from art to the movies and advertising. With an educated African background, he came to live through the tension and psychological devastation of being reduced to being black in a country that defines identity according to race. The artist’s strong sense of Nigerian identity was kept alive by family traditions, through stories told by his parents. in the collection of African art and artifacts in his home, and through a constant reminding of his roots. With an art historian for a father, Odita grew up reflecting upon two separate layers of aesthetic understanding, one academic, the other instinctive, one intrinsic in his birth language and roots, the other adopted and learned through everyday culture, forming the relationship between ideology of aesthetics and identity of space, which would become an important aspect of his work. Racial and ethnic codes were fundamental signifiers for the artist’s perception of identity, intensified by a massive and growing distribution and generalization of these codes throughout media-cultures.
Text by Denise Carvalho is an Art Critic and Independent Curator based in New York.