Recent Acquisitions: Owusu-Ankomah, Starkid, 2007

Hood Quarterly, summer 2014

Owusu-Ankomah (born 1956) is a Ghanaian-born artist based in Bremen, Germany, who is well known for his excellent draftsmanship, command of form, and understanding of color—attributes evident in Starkid, a recent acquisition by the Hood. This vivid acrylic-on-canvas work features three muscular male figures, along with a cluster of Adinkra and symbols invented by the artist. The three figures are painted in a light blue tone that complements the deeper blue of the patchwork of signs on their bodies. Their commanding presence dominates the left side of the picture plane, which contrasts boldly with the navy blue background that is suffused with the same symbols but painted in varying hues of blue, white, and black. One remarkable aspect of the painting is the artist's attempt to create harmony and contrast. For example, the eyebrows and eyes of the men are painted in black and white. Ankomah outlines their strapping bodies, especially the back, parts of the thighs, buttocks, back of the head, and arms, with thin black marks to create volume and depth, and to distinguish the foreground. At the same time, he softly blends the other parts of their bodies into the background to orchestrate perspective and distance.

Among the Akan people of Ghana, Adinkra symbols, an autochthonous graphic communication system, are printed on traditional clothes worn during funerals. They embody the depth of human experience, past and present. On Starkid's male figures, they look like massive tattoos and can thus be read as maps of human experience with which the men navigate the corporeal and immaterial worlds. Their gestures equally lend credence to this assertion. They appear to be in flight; their upturned faces gaze quizzically into space as they point at an unusual sign: a schematized human form surrounded by white stars, the star kid. With Starkid, Ankomah succeeds in broadening his creative vocabulary and interests in myths of origin, belief systems, historical memory, extraterrestrial connections, and the human relationship with the universe. The painting also marks the end of Movement, a series of black-and-white works in which Ankomah explored the essence of rhythms and motion, while signaling the beginning of his ongoing series entitled Microcron.

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Written June 01, 2014