Rele Gallery is pleased to present ‘Material Times’, an exhibition examining three-dimensional art forms, that is, sculpture in Nigeria. The exhibition title is not only drawn from the varying materials presented, which includes bronze, wood, ceramics and metals/found objects, but also alludes to the evolution of the form, from its inception in the 13th century to the remarkable and innovate processes that has expanded the definition of contemporary sculptural practice.
From the time of its introduction, sculpture has remained a significant part of African art and history. In the 1900s, colonizers from France, Portugal, Britain and all over Europe looted the precious artefacts from West African cities. The largest collection of Benin bronzes still sits in the British Museum in London, England. Despite on-going conversations around repatriation, the return of these works remains challenging, mostly owing to the complex bureaucratic process involved.
Today, many Nigerian artists use their sculptures to not only to depict past history, but to narrate current world happenings. Contemporary works in the exhibition build upon the conventions made during the 19th and 20th centuries. Edo native, Victor Ehikhamenor creates his bronze sculptures in collaboration with the bronze casters on Igun street, merging traditional techniques with his contemporary concepts. Olu Amoda believes that the objects find the artist not the other way around. Ngozi Omeje’s ceramic installation pieces are reminiscent of scientific chromosomes and Abdulrasaq Awofeso’s miniature wood compositions are about exploring societal constructs. These artists and others featured in the exhibition – Peju Alatise, Ato Arinze, Reuben Ugbine, Raqib Bashorun, Dotun Popoola, Wale Alimi, Nathaniel Djakoukassi, Abinoro Collins and Enotie Ogbegbor, are all transforming the parameters of Nigerian/African art.
‘Material Times’ is not being presented in order of chronological events but focuses on the artists and the materials explored, circling around what it means to be a contemporary sculptor in Nigeria and the various approaches to art making. At its crux, highlights and celebrates leading Nigerian contemporary artists who are at the forefront of the sculptural narrative, and display how the energies of ground breaking forebears are revived and reinterpreted by contemporary generations of artists exploring novel ways of capturing their subjects and themselves.