THE GARDINER MUSEUM in Toronto acquired a carbonized terracotta vessel by Magdalene Odundo in 2006. A prime example of the renowned artist’s ceramic practice, the elegant, untitled work is defined by its feminine silhouette and smooth lustrous surface embellished with tiny, delicate nipple-like accents. Nearly two decades later, the sculpture is the only work by Odundo in the collection of a Canadian museum and is showcased in a new exhibition.
“Magdalene Odundo: A Dialogue with Objects,” the largest North American exhibition of her work, just opened at the Gardiner Museum, which is dedicated to ceramics and clay. Spanning her career, more than 20 works are featured in conversation with objects of art and archeology that speak to Odundo’s influences.
Kenya-born, UK-based Odundo is recognized for her elegant, minimalist sculptures. Built and shaped using a hand-coiling method, without a potting wheel or a team of assistants, each vessel takes months to produce.
“I describe my work as pared down forms and my ultimate goal and my ultimate aim is to make a form that is so simple that defies any sort of explanation,” Odundo recently said.* “The notion of the pieces having an inside is very important to me because I tend to work from the outside and then inside and the embellishments and the twists and turns of the piece are sculpted to really consider the inside space because I think the inside of this piece explains what the outside is doing. And I always think that the inside of us as human beings informs who we are on the outside.” CT
“Magdalene Odundo: A Dialogue with Objects” is on view at Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada, from Oct. 19, 2023-April 21, 2024. The exhibition is co-curated by the artist Magdalene Odundo and Sequoia Miller, chief curator and deputy director of the Gardiner Museum
* Magdalene Odundo spoke about her work in a 2022 video produced by The Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge
MAGDALENE ODUNDO, Untitled, 2003 (ceramic, 47.5 x 25.7 x 26.8 x 25.7 cm / 18 11/16 x 10 1/8 x 10 9/16 x 10 1/8 inches). | Gardiner Museum, donated in loving memory of Susanne Louise Roberts (“Bede”), a fellow potter, by Camille, Daniel and Neal Roberts
“I always hoped I would be invited to have an exhibition in Canada, and to have it at the Gardiner Museum is very special for me, especially as one of my favorite pieces to come out of my studio is in their collection.”
— Magdalene Odundo
MAGDALENE ODUNDO, Untitled, 1990 (terracotta, 16 x 10 x 10 inches / 40.6 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm). | Brooklyn Museum, purchased with funds given by Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Clyman and Frank L. Babbott Fund, 1991.26. © Magdalene Odundo. Photo: Brooklyn Museum
A fully illustrated catalog, “Magdalene Odundo: A Dialogue with Objects,” will accompany the Gardiner Museum exhibition. “Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things” was published on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. “Magdalene Odundo” is described as the first full-length publication to explore her work. Also consider, “African Ceramics: A Different Perspective” and “Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists,” as well as “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina.”
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