Excerpts of Review by Vicki Roosevelt
Until several years ago, my idea and images of much of African Art and culture were based upon girlhood books, many visits to the New York City Museum of Natural History, and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was familiar with the ancient– masks, carvings and sculpture, textiles, musical instruments, weapons, household items, ceremonial clothing, jewelry, cave paintings, etc., etc. I knew of animals and myths– wonderful stories– some history and culture– and geography. I was/ am more familiar with the music of Africa– both ancient and modern. I, however, knew nothing about the modern art of Africa. I still know very little. I appreciate and react to this art with my gut, my heart, and my brain– not with any real knowledge or training as a critic. In my case, it is all about senses, impressions and feeling– not at all academic.
I first learned of Bruce Onobrakpeya about three and a half years ago from a good friend who has been a lover of African Art — both ancient and modern for well over fifty years. I was really drawn to much of what I saw in his collection of prints, statues, textiles, and artifacts. I particularly loved the Onobrakpeya prints that he has. A year or two ago we attended a show in New York City in honor of the artist’s 80 th birthday. There I saw even more of Onobrakpeya’s work– more modern than that which I had seen before– and I was equally drawn to it.
This explains a bit about why I was so thrilled to receive a copy of A Revisit To The Sunshine Period 1960 – 1970. The book of Serigraphs introduced me to a very colorful and light filled period of the artist’s work that I had not seen before. Upon first glancing at the book I was as drawn to the color and light — and the few places of shadow –as I was to the images. Each time I study each of the Serigraphs I see something new — within the overall images there are many layers and subtleties– which makes studying each print fun and rewarding. So many of the colors are wonderfully warm and inviting– the greens, the reds, yellows, and blues– even the white in Ubido– one of many favorites. The light and use of color seem to create movement in some of prints–like the Three Elephant Masquerades (another favorite). The image and light and shade in the Sugar cane Truck Pushers makes you feel the toil of these men. You can almost hear them groaning as they push the truck. Along with Ubido, I think the prints I love the most are Leopard in the Cornfield lV– we feel the corn swaying and the leopard’s expression makes us think he is seeking his next meal. Cows in Sunshine is also terrific– you feel the warmth of the day through the cows squinting from the light. The colors and feel of Scarecrow ll is also terrific– as are the figures and their adornment in Two Faces ll. If I was told that I had to pick only two Serigraphs as favorites– I would have a difficult time– but upon reflection, I think they would be Hunter’s Secret — because of the extraordinary use of color and the subtle figures and their expressions. The second would be Man and Two Wives ll. It is quite different from the others in the collection– it is more still. What stands out most about this print– aside from the beautiful color and dress of the three figures — is the sense of pride and dignity — as well as love and serenity that one feels in and among the subjects.
These comments and impressions do not really do the artist or his work justice– but I hope they may motivate others that do not know Bruce Onobrakpeya’s work to seek it out. Only good is to be gained by doing so. Enjoy.
– Vicki Roosevelt