Auto-Graphics: Recent Drawings by Victor Ekpuk

Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, Champaign, IL, United States
24 Jan 2014 - 27 Jul 2014

Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion (KAM) presents  Auto-Graphics: Recent Drawings by Victor Ekpuk from January 24 through July 27, 2014. The artist will be present at the exhibition opening public reception, which will be held on Thursday, January 23 from 6–7 pm, and will return to KAM on March 13 to give a gallery conversation.

Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk is best known for his improvisational use of nsibidi, a form of ideographic writing associated with the powerful Ekpe men’s association of southeastern Nigeria. As a student of fine arts at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife in the mid-1980s, Ekpuk worked in a pedagogical environment informed by onaism, a Yorùbá aesthetic philosophy that urged students to explore the logics of pattern and design in indigenous African art forms. Ekpuk’s early fascination with nsibidi during these years—its economy of line and encoded meanings—led to his broader explorations of drawing as writing, and to the invention of his own fluid letterforms. As a mature artist, Ekpuk has so internalized the rhythm and contours of his “script” that it flows from his hand like the outpouring of a personal archive.

In recent years, Ekpuk’s approach to mark making has come to flourish through his investigations of scale, motion, surface, and form. Auto-Graphics features selections from several of Ekpuk’s new bodies of work, including collage, digital prints, and his supersized drawings—bold, vibrant, yet restrained compositions in which nsibidi signs are cropped, abstracted, and glided beyond the frame through the illusion of magnification. Their dense grounds of micro-script and bristling opaque forms contrast with the more figural works on view. Ekpuk’s compositions are not tentative or ambivalent, and are drawn with no erasure. Like nsibidi, which communicates through both visual mark and gesture, Ekpuk’s immersive drawings seem to be choreographed with the full force of his body. This will become readily evident to visitors when, upon entering the museum, they are greeted by one of Ekpuk’s works drawn directly onto the gallery wall—an ample surface on which to explore the infinite potential and ephemeral fate of the hand-drawn line.

Victor Ekpuk has held numerous residencies at art institutes and universities throughout the US and in Nigeria, the Netherlands, and France. He currently lives and works in Washington D.C.

The exhibition is curated by Allyson Purpura and sponsored in part by the Lorado Taft Lectureship on Art Fund/College of Fine + Applied Arts and Krannert Art Museum and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

College of Fine and Applied Arts

500 E. Peabody Drive | Champaign, IL 61820

p. 217 333 1861 | f. 217 333 0883 | kam.illinois.edu