Meaning of Color

Odili Donald Odita, Union, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 72x84Odita with his Give Me Shelter installationJust pure color can tell a story?  In an 2009 IRAAA article on Odili Donald Odita  (v. 22, no. 3), art critic Lara Taubman said it was so.  For example, she cited Odita’s Torch Song from his 2008 Double Edge exhibition at Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, SA, and relayed the artist’s story about it:  (The Torch Song painting is) “a song of lament, of unrequited love.  So I wanted the red to be a certain tone, to be a flame that gets extinguished as soon as it flares.  That’s why I brought the pink in and intensified the orange colors….”

Odili Donald Odita, Tomorrow World, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 90x110Odili Donald Odita continued his exploration of the meaning of color in his This, That and the Other solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC, Oct 18 - Nov 16, 2013.   In commenting on this new body of work, the Nigerian-American (born in Africa, raised in the US) artist began with quotes that express the inter-dependence of objective reality.

Odili Donald Odita, Firewall, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 90x80. Courtesy the artist & Jack Shainman GalleryBILL MOYERS to CHINUA ACHEBE:

There’s a proverb in your tradition that says, “Wherever something stands, something else will stand beside it.” How do you interpret that

CHINUA ACHEBE: It means that there is no one way to anything. The Ibo people who made that proverb are very insistent on this—there is no absolute anything. They are against excess—their world is a world of dualities…. This does not exist without that.

— Bill Moyers, A World of Ideas, New York: Doubleday, 1989.

“We are able to hear a single tone. But we almost never (that is, without special devices) see a single color unconnected and unrelated to other colors. Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions."

— Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013.

A color does not exist without its other.

Odili Donald Odita, Wild Wild West, 2013, 90 x 120These paintings are about the freedom of consideration—the freedom of thought and of considering difference in space and in time.The colors are specific and exact. They are not arbitrary. They take a position and a stance unlike gray, which sits distanced and non-committed. These colors can get closer to the depiction of thoughts, ideas and emotions. They are real. The space of these colors is one of the mind and the body coming together in form.

My desire in painting is to state the existence of other realities; of other ways and modes of action in life. This seems like a natural and acceptable desire to have, yet with investigation, it is quite clear that in the world we live, this has yet to be achieved. We do need to come together, look deeper and move beyond local taste and judgment to open ourselves up to greater possibility and potential within the world we live.

I want to speak directly to the idea of the ‘Other' as a social body within a postmodern and postcolonial reality. In considering notions of the Other, I want to look at aspects of fragmentation and of existence without any specific center or of centers defined within specific contexts.

Installation view, Odili Donald Odita: This, That and the Other, Jack Shainman GalleryMusic is an equally essential underpinning in my work. My exploration in considering music as a form has brought me to a deep understanding of music as a force that contemplates and explores the extremes of pathos and celebration within the human condition. This in turn is structured as concept and emotion in the paintings—it is my desire to make conceptual consideration of emotional experience and thought.

Installation view, Odili Donald Odita: This, That and the Other. Jack Shainman GalleryMy play with music and color composition brought me to ideas of atonality, which in turn has enabled me to free the way I use color. Rather than work in institutionally grounded aesthetic systems where the containment of color occurs because of assumed and prejudiced notions of color as aberrant, abject and superficial, it has always been my intention to work without the ‘fear of color’, which is in itself a censoring, limiting and debilitating condition. Color has been and continues to be a way for me to explore many different ideas as they exist within social, cultural, aesthetic and even political contexts.

Odili Donald Odita, Philadelphia, 2013