Mar. 6 Art Minute: Magdalene Odundo, “Untitled”

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Magdalene Odundo (Kenyan, active Great Britain, born 1950), Untitled. Terracotta, burnished and carbonized, 1988. 15 3/4 x 10 in. Purchased with the Mr. and Mrs. George M. Jones, Jr. Fund, in honor of Carolyn M. Putney, 2014.39. Gallery 8

Magdalene Odundo (Kenyan, active Great Britain, born 1950), Untitled. Terracotta, burnished and carbonized, 1988. 15 3/4 x 10 in. Purchased with the Mr. and Mrs. George M. Jones, Jr. Fund, in honor of Carolyn M. Putney, 2014.39. Gallery 8

Art is intuitive; it is the essence of being human.

Kenyan–born artist Magdalene Odundo’s style is very much influenced by African metalwork and American Southwest ceramics. This work from 1988 was created after several trips to Kenya and Nigeria as well to New Mexico, where she saw Puebloan black wares being created.

Odundo hand-built this vessel from terracotta clay using a coiling technique. To achieve the rich black color, she burnished the clay, covered it with slip (thin liquid clay), then burnished it again. It was next fired in a kiln in a high-oxygen atmosphere, which turns the clay red-orange. A second firing in a low-oxygen (reduction) atmosphere turned the vessel black. The gray/black tones of this piece are probably the result of partial reduction during the firing process. The exact outcome of firing is uncontrollable, adding a small element of chance to the artistic process.

Her process and the relationship of her vessels to the human form reflect pottery traditions in sub-Saharan Africa.


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