Magdalene A.N. Odundo DBE Biography

For nearly five decades, Magdalene Odundo has produced lustrous ceramic vessels whose anthropomorphic forms evoke the curves of the feminine figure and reflect a rich heritage of ceramic traditions. Informed by her own diasporic identity and extensive travels, Odundo's sculptures incorporate references ranging from Japanese Jōmon period ceramics and Nigerian Nupe pottery on to Elizabethan costume and the work of Constantin Brancusi.

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Born in 1950 in Nairobi, Odundo was raised in both Kenya and India; she studied at the Cambridge School of Art and received degrees from West Surrey College of Art and Design (1976) and the Royal College of Art (1982). In 1974, she traveled to the Abuja Pottery Centre in Nigeria, where she learned millennia-old firing and hand-building techniques. Later, she studied the burnishing of blackware with potters in Uganda and San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico. The artist has refined a laborious practice of hand-coiling her vessels into precise gestural shapes. She adds colloidal slip (an ancient Greek technique called terra sigillata), and rather than use glaze, she polishes the fired ceramics by burnishing their surfaces with stones, gourds, and other instruments. The sienna red of the clay oxidises in a single firing, while iridescent black effects are achieved through further reduction firings or wood-burning.

Odundo's artwork has been the subject of retrospectives and traveling exhibitions worldwide, including the seven-venue presentation Ceramic Gestures: New Vessels by Magdalene Odundo, organised by the University Art Museum, University of California Santa Barbara (1995). For her 2019 exhibition The Journey of Things at the Hepworth Wakefield and Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, Odundo presented fifty of her vessels alongside a selection of objects spanning 3,000 years. In addition to her numerous honours, in 2008 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the Arts. Her work belongs to museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, New York; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Lévy Gorvy Dayan contemporary art gallery in New York, United States
Lévy Gorvy Dayan Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris
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