Pow­er­ful mes­sages that re­quire few words

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY MARK JENK­INS

Some of the pic­tures in Vic­tor Ekpuk’s “These Mo­ments,” like his ear­lier ones, fea­ture ideograms de­rived from Nsi­bidi, an an­cient African writ­ing sys­tem. But the most force­ful piece in the Mor­ton Fine Art show con­tains just one sym­bol: a crosshairs bull’s eye over a face­less man’s heart. The fig­ure in “Still I Rise” is on his knees with his hands up, one in a ges­ture of sur­ren­der, but the other clenched into a fist. The D.C. artist is think­ing not of his na­tive Nige­ria, but of places such as Fer­gu­son, Mo.

Other pieces were in­spired by Ekpuk’s re­cent four-month res­i­dency in the land of his birth, where he was struck by lo­cal id­ioms in which “head” refers to a per­son’s mind or mood. That re­sulted in sev­eral sculp­tural paint­ings, all ti­tled “Head” plus a num­ber, on shaped wood pan­els. Ekpuk has a strong graphic sense, and snip­ping his im­ages to their es­sen­tial out­lines gives then even more punch.

In the nearly all-red “Head 2,” Nsi­bidi char­ac­ters fill the face and neck, sug­gest­ing some­one stuffed with thoughts. Yet there’s less text in these art­works than in pre­vi­ous group­ings, and it’s some­times pit­ted against el­e­men­tary ge­om­e­try, such as the hor­i­zon­tal stripes of “Head 7.” Ex­e­cuted mostly in black and red, with deep blue as an oc­ca­sional coun­ter­point, these draw­ings and paint­ings are strik­ingly direct. “Still I Rise” is the only one that could dou­ble as a protest plac­ard, but all are as im­me­di­ate as street posters.

Vic­tor Ekpuk: These Mo­ments On view through May 31 at Mor­ton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787. mor­ton­fin­eart.com.

VIC­TOR EKPUK/COUR­TESY MOR­TON FINE ART

Vic­tor Ekpuk, “Por­trait Se­ries #8” (2015), acrylic on can­vas, on view in “These Mo­ments,” through May 31 at Mor­ton Fine Art. Some of the pieces in the D.C. artist’s show were in­spired by his re­cent four­month res­i­dency in his home­land of Nige­ria.

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