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Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Carol Magee

(b Dec 8, 1956).

Ethiopian painter, installation artist, graphic designer, and writer, active in the USA. She grew up in Addis Ababa in a family of painters before moving to the USA. She graduated from Howard University, Washington, DC, with a BFA in painting (1975) and returned in 1994 for an MFA. Her early works, based on dreams or visions, have richly textured surfaces. In the 1980s she abandoned her early palette of reds, ochres, and greens for one of purples and blues. Later paintings depict an urban environment and frequently evoke the feeling of dislocation and nostalgia that comes from living in a country that is not one’s own. Her use of themes and motifs from myriad cultures (including those of Ethiopia and Latin America) comes out of her experiences as a diasporic subject as well as the lives of the women around her. Her pieces often tell their stories, as in the Dream Dancers series (...

Article

Sarah Urist Green

revised by Julia Detchon

(b Santiago, Chile, Feb 5, 1956).

Chilean architect, public interventionist, installation artist, photographer, and filmmaker, active in the USA. He first studied architecture at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, then filmmaking at the Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura, Santiago, concluding in 1981. Throughout his career, Jaar’s works have taken many forms in order to address global themes of injustice and illuminate structures of power. In over fifty projects he termed “public interventions,” Jaar conducted extensive research around the world to create site-specific works that reflect political and social realities near and far from his sites of exhibition. He created works—in gallery spaces and in public, often engaging spectator involvement—that present images critically and confront the social and political interests they serve.

Jaar’s first public intervention was Studies on Happiness (1979–1981), a three-year series of performances and exhibitions in which he asked the question, “Are you happy?” of people in the streets of Santiago. Inspired by ...

Article

Michele Fricke

(b New York City, 1969).

American conceptual and installation artist, active also in South Africa. Lou studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, where her interest in working with beads was not well received by her professors or peers. She withdrew from the school in 1990 and moved to Los Angeles where she began making her iconic work Kitchen (1991–6), adhering beads to ready-made and constructed surfaces and objects. The work received enormous attention and inaugurated her career.

Kitchen, a life-sized work of astonishing ambition, was first shown at the New Museum in New York in an exhibition entitled Labor of Love. Intended as a monument to women’s work, every surface and object of Kitchen was encrusted in beads, each one applied by Lou alone. The banality of the household items recalls the Pop sensibilities of Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. In subsequent works, objects from popular culture continue to appear. Backyard...

Article

Lorraine Morales Cox

(b Nairobi, June 22, 1972).

Kenyan draughtsman and collagist, active in the USA. Mutu’s drawings, two-dimensional mixed media collaged images of women and installations explore themes of race, gender, beauty, politics and consumption (see fig.). She completed her primary schooling in Nairobi and her International Baccalaureate in 1991 at the United World College of the Atlantic in South Wales. Mutu then studied at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of the Arts and Science in New York (BFA, 1996) and Yale University School of Art in New Haven, CT (MFA, 2000).

Mutu has created beautiful yet grotesque collaged images of women, using cutouts taken from such sources as glossy fashion advertisements, pornography magazines and medical illustrations combined with glitter, paint and iridescent pigments. Her process of lifting, cutting and rearranging critiques the ways popular media, racial stereotypes and long-held cultural assumptions have inscribed and idealized the female body. She draws particular attention to feminine ideals of beauty that lead to various forms of body modification. Classic Kenyan folktales, mythologies, and her own immigrant experience equally inform her imagery. The critical nature of her work brings to mind the earlier 20th century work of ...

Article

Joanna Grabski

[ El Sy ]

(b Dakar, Sept 9, 1954).

Senegalese painter, installation artist, curator and writer. After graduating from the Institut National des Arts du Senegal (1977), where he specialized in painting, he travelled in Africa, Europe and the United States. He played an active role in Dakar’s artistic community, serving as president of the Association Nationale des Artistes Plasticiens du Senegal as well as co-founding the Village des Arts, a cooperative studio space, and Tenq, an artists’ workshop. He won first prize for his mosaic at the Stadium of Friendship, Dakar (1986). Intending to provoke dialogue and commentary, his work challenges conventional modes of production and display. In addition to painting with his feet in the 1970s and 1980s, he painted on such innovative materials as jute sacks and fibreglass cloth used for making kites. His work is characterized by its emphasis on the gestural movement of painting, as seen in the sweeping brushstrokes and curvilinear forms of ...

Article

Chika Okeke

(b Lagos, 1965).

Nigerian photographer, painter and installation artist , active in the USA. He attended Hunter College, City University of New York. In the 1980s he worked mainly as a painter but also collaborated with such New York artists as Carrie May Weems and Lyle Ashton Harris. In 1993 he developed his photographic work, dealing with issues of representation and urban life, particularly race, gender and sexual identity. His self-portraits, in which he wears women’s cosmetics, comment on assumptions about what constitutes gender identity, as in Woman in Egyptian Art (1996). They also reference the costume and make-up of Igbo ‘female’ masquerades, which are normally danced by men ( see Igbo §2 ). He also uses self-portraiture to criticize American culture. In his Cover Girl series (1994–9), for instance, he designed mock magazine covers for Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Condé Naste Traveller, making himself the cover girl. The ‘articles’ in these imaginary journals frequently address the West’s relation to Africa, for example, ‘Hysteria Over the Death of the Noble Savage’. Thus the ...