Encyclopedia of African American Artists

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O

Odili Donald Odita (b. 1966), Painter.

The paintings of Odili Donald Odita are structured such that they can theoretically cover endless spans of space and still maintain an aesthetic integrity and a compelling wholeness. In the abstract configurations that have become Odita’s distinctive creative signature, bands of colors, often sharp, angular, chevron, or distorted rhombus are sent in trajectories that are sometimes poetic and at other times mesmerizing. The palette, arranged often to conjure a mood, is as important to the finished work as it is in suggesting moods or evoking notions. They recall landscapes and geographies of a different sort: those that are summoned forth through the power of imagination and execution. What is Odita’s work about? In an interview that was widely distributed in conjunction with the installation of his work at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 2007, he provides an answer: “My work entails abstract designs that come from painting. I am dealing with patterns and designs that come from African textiles, but it also refers to geography—to landscapes. The paintings are often called internal geographies.… In a certain sense they are my internalization of Africa—this landscape space that I was born in but haven’t lived in a large part of my life.”

Odita typifies the new generation of contemporary black artists—the first generation of African Americans whose parents migrated to the United States in search of a golden fleece. He was born in Enugu, a coal city on the east of the Niger River in Nigeria on February 18, 1966, to Chinyere Florence Odita and Emmanuel Odita, one of the first generation of contemporary Nigerian artists to emerge on the art scene in the 1960s, the decade that Nigeria attained independence from Britain. On January 15, 1966, a military coup had toppled the federal government of Nigeria. Within a few months, this resulted in a pogrom in the northern part of the country, leading to the massacre of thousands of Igbo men, women, and children, Odita’s kinsmen. Later that year, shortly before the 1967 civil war that erupted following the secessionist bid of Biafra, the Odita family fled Nigeria with six-month old Odita. The oldest of four children—two brothers and a sister—Odita grew up in Columbus, Ohio; his father, who earned his doctorate degree in art history from Indiana University, is professor of art history at Ohio State University.

Odita grew up with exposure to comic books, the television, cartoons, and video games. Equally, he grew up African; specifically, a Nigerian of Igbo

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Encyclopedia of African American Artists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • A 1
  • B 17
  • C 35
  • D 55
  • E 77
  • F 95
  • G 99
  • H 105
  • J 117
  • K 125
  • L 133
  • M 151
  • N 169
  • O 173
  • P 181
  • R 201
  • S 211
  • T 231
  • U 239
  • V 243
  • W 247
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 295
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