Born 1944, Anyako, Ghana. Lives Nsukka, Nigeria.
Bleeding Takari II, 2007, aluminium and copper wire, 393.7 × 576.6 cm (12 ft 11 in × 18 ft 11 in), Museum of Modern Art, New York
Since 1975 Anatsui has worked in the university town of Nsukka, where artists refined the method of ‘natural synthesis’, blending elements of abstract painting and sculpture with the material and symbolic textures of Nigerian life. Some twenty years later – after achieving prominence with his roughly forged ceramic and wood forms – he alighted on his signature medium of discarded bottle caps, aluminium and foil. In the silence of a studio that he seeks to imbue with spiritual energy, Anatsui and his assistants laboriously flatten and stitch vibrant metallic arrays using copper wire. Such ‘swatches’ are mixed and matched with the help of a digital archive, ultimately taking on the character of flowing textiles. Although these sinuous forms evoke a regional legacy of weaving and dyeing cloth – kente, adire, batik – Anatsui’s monumentally scaled compositions are ultimately ambiguous, limning the space between media. Bleeding Takari II, with its shimmering surface and sanguinary runnels, seems to suggest violence and despair; but it also speaks more broadly to the rich tapestry of terrestrial life and its cycles of death and regeneration, birth and decay.
This text is adapted from Phaidon’s publication 'African Artists: From 1882 to Now', with introduction by Chika Okeke-Agulu and glossary by Joseph L Underwood.
As featured in the New York Times, ARTnews, Colossal, Metropolis and New York Magazine’s The Strategist - the book is a groundbreaking A-Z survey of the work of over 300 modern and contemporary artists born or based in Africa.
Latitudes Co-Founder, Lucy MacGarry consulted on the selection process for the artists featured within the publication.
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