Dorsky Museum Welcomes “Abstract Minded”

A piece by Audu featured in the collection which he describes as a “self-portrait.” The exhibit offers work by six contemporary African Artists, all born and/or raised in the continent. Photo by Julia Thornton.

   The exhibit opened on Wednesday, Jan. 24, while the official opening of the exhibit is Saturday, Feb. 10. The collection features abstract artwork by contemporary African artists.

        According to the Dorsky website, “The artists in Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists, all born and/or raised in countries in Africa, produce work thematically or conceptually connected to the continent by using abstraction as a way of engaging in a broader conversation about art.”

        Upon walking into the gallery, one is shocked at the impressive range of colors which cover the walls. Often when in a gallery of abstract pieces, there is a sense of chaos; this display, however, gently pulls the viewer into its world.

        The collection was curated and organized by Nigerian-born artist Osi Audu originally for the N’Nambi Center for Contemporary Art in Detroit. Audu is a Hudson Valley resident, who lives not too far from New Paltz. The collection was introduced to The Dorsky by Audu, who approached Sara Pasti, The Dorsky museum Neil C. Trager director. He inquired if the museum would want to display the exhibition here on campus.

        “We believed that this presentation of contemporary work by African artists would be of great interest to the campus, so we agreed to be the second venue on the exhibition’s tour,” Pasti said. “After its presentation at The Dorsky, the show heads to Pittsburgh.”

        When asked about the themes of the work, Pasti cited Audu’s words, “As far as the exhibition’s themes, that it best expressed in the words of curator and artist Osi Audu: ‘In our increasingly global existence of the 21st century the world is becoming less and less exotic, and is being experienced more as a sphere of commonalities of being, dreams, fears and as­pirations.’” 

        According to Pasti, this collection offers a idiosyncratic perspective, and is in conjunction with what is typically displayed at The Dorsky:

        “Much of the work that The Dorsky exhibits has its origins in the Hudson Valley, which is both the geographical location of the museum as well as a special focus area for the museum’s collections and exhibitions,” Pasti said. “To be able to bring art created by internationally-known African-born artists to the region presented a unique opportunity that we felt would be inspiring to our audiences.”

        Audu has displayed work in museums and institutions spanning the globe, such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C., The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, and The British Museum and Horniman Museum in London. His work has also been displayed at the Tobu Museum and Setagaya Museum, both in Japan. Audu’s work has also been acquired for corporate collections like Sony Classical New York, according to the artist and curator’s website.

Audu reflected on his purpose in curating the exhibition:

        “My aim in curating the exhibition is to stimulate conversations about abstraction and African art, particularly contemporary African art,” he said. He elaborated on the abstraction in the pieces, “Abstraction, as a primal, formal language, is indigenous to all the worlds’ cultures.”

        The show not only contributes perspectives of African artists, but allows those artists to pose questions about the contemporary world and its tumultuous political, social, and economic landscape.

“The focus of the show is on works by artists of African origin, who use pure form in an abstract, non-figurative way, to create works that are as aesthetically engaging as they are thought-provoking,” Audu said. “[They are] raising questions about social, political, and cultural issues that are not only significant within the African continent, but are also of relevance across the wider world, particularly today, in our global environment of the 21st Century.”

Dorsky Museum Gallery assistant and first-year Kate Salvo, commented on the exhibition as a whole.

“The descriptions offer connections between the abstract aspects of the pieces,” Salvo said. “They make it easier to understand the context and the African heritage of the artists.”

        Audu finally remarked, “This exhibition is not simply about looking for the African in African art, it is also about looking at what some African artists are doing today in order to get a fuller sense of the current ‘state of things’ in contemporary African art.”

        Curator Osi Audu’s information can be found at The exhibition is on display from Jan. 24 – April 15, 2018 in the Alice and Horace Chandler Gallery and North Gallery.