Powerful messages that require few words
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, “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.