This site-specific mural inaugurates the new Project Space at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Equalizer, by artist Odili Donald Odita (b. 1966), tells of two moments of migration from the African continent to the Americas. The first is the transatlantic slave trade, of the early 1500s to almost 1900, which remains the largest forced migration in world history. The second, and more recent, is the contemporary relocation and emigration of Africans in search of political and economic stability.
Though abstract and without discernable figures or direct narrative references, Equalizer is what Odita calls a “conceptual journey” in which the interactions of shape and color become metaphors for land and sea, movement and settling, challenges and hope. The explosive image on the red wall illustrates movement out of Africa. The adjacent wall to the right, strong blues and mauve predominates, representing the Atlantic ocean which Odita describes as “all tooth and treachery.” The next wall, where faint pastels blend to form somber gray tones that then give way to bright, prismatic earth tones on the right, represents potential and possibility. On the final wall, the patterns move from more horizontal orientation to smaller, animated fractals that are a metaphor for both the difficulties of immigrant life and the possibility that the African émigré, whether historical or contemporary, may find a new place to call “home.”
Odili Donald Odita was born in Enugu, Nigeria; raised in Columbus, Ohio and received an MFA from Vermont’s Bennington College in 1990. Since then, Odita has been included in exhibitions in Africa, North America and Europe, such as DAK’ART 2004, the Dakar Biennial of Contemporary Art and the 52nd International Art Exhibition at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Odita is currently Associate Professor of Painting at Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia.
The Project Space is a dynamic new location dedicated to a new series of site-specific works and projects at the Studio Museum. This recent addition to the exhibition program continues the Museum’s commitment to activating multiple architectural sites throughout the building—such as the lobby, atrium and façade—that provide artists with laboratories for innovative, contemporary art projects.