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Odili Donald Odita Biography

Nigerian-born American artist Odili Donald Odita is recognised for his painted abstract compositions that explore historical and contemporary visual traditions, socio-political issues, and notions of identity through colour and dynamic form.

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Early Years

Odita moved to the United States with his family when he was six months old, at the onset of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967. Growing up in the Midwest, Odita received a BFA from Ohio State University (1988) and an MFA from Bennington College, Vermont (1990).

Odili Donald Odita Artworks

The vibrant and energised forms of Odili Donald Odita's work derive from a broad range of sources, including patterns originating from West Africa, screensavers, wallpaper designs, and modernist paintings. In addition to paintings on canvas and wood panels, Odita also paints murals and large-scale wall installations.


While often compared to the work of Minimalist and Hard Edge painters such as Frank Stella or Kenneth Noland, Odita's paintings are distinct in their asymmetrical and unpredictable arrangements of fragments of colour. In Point of Return (2010), for example, shards ranging in tone from pastel to more vibrant hues seemingly converge towards a vanishing point, which is in fact off-centre. When repeating patterns, as with Iron Butterfly and Flower (both 2019), Odita rotates the colours to create a sense of vitality amongst the shapes.


As the artist told Studio International in 2016, Odita approaches colour as 'a physical force' experienced through the senses that invokes cultural and societal associations. Known for hand-mixing his colours, Odita has said that he cannot paint the same colour twice.

Different hues achieve a kaleidoscopic harmony in Odita's work. Pale yellow is juxtaposed with muted orange and indigo, among others, in Television (With the Speed of Light) (2010), while dark, desaturated colours gather in vertical straps of triangular and quadrilateral shapes in a canvas with the foreboding title Climate Change (2021).

Large-scale Paintings

Odita has produced his paintings as large-scale wall installations and murals. Give Me Shelter, presented at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007, comprised paintings of long horizontal and diagonal bands that stretched to the corners of the walls. In 2022, the artist spent two weeks in Dayton, Ohio creating a site-specific mural at The Contemporary Dayton, which featured interlocking fan-like shapes in bold colours.


Odili Donald Odita's work has been shown in both solo and group exhibitions.

Solo exhibitions include 3 Steps from Center, The Contemporary Dayton (2022); Odili Donald Odita: Climate Change, Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (2021); Mirror, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2020); Other World, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town (2018).

Group exhibitions include Cartographies of Colour, Galerie Thomas, Munich (2022); Today and Tomorrow, Gana Art Gallery, Seoul (2021); Count of Three, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2019).


Odita's website can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

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