As many readers of this blog likely know, curators who organize exhibitions at their home institutions often aim to “travel” those exhibitions to other venues in order to reach even wider audiences and to engage with colleagues from around the country who have similar interests and goals in their curatorial practice.
Recently, I was delighted to learn that Ugochukwu Smooth Nzewi, my wonderful colleague at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art, asked to be a hosting venue for KAM’s Auto-Graphics, an exhibition featuring the large scale drawings and ephemeral wall work of Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk (the show was on view here at KAM from January to August 2014.) It is always exciting to see how a curatorial colleague will re-imagine an exhibition for their own museum, and how it will engage audiences installed in entirely different gallery spaces! So I was doubly thrilled when Smooth—who is just completing his second year at the Hood—invited me up on April 25 to see the installation and to give gallery talk on Ekpuk’s work.
As can be seen from these few images, Auto-Graphics was beautifully installed at the Hood. Upon entering the exhibition, audiences were greeted by a dazzling, ephemeral wall drawing, nearly twice the size as the work the artist created at KAM. The Hood’s spacious galleries and high ceilings allowed Ekpuk’s large scale works to breathe; they could be viewed up close and from greater distances, creating new “conversations” and adjacencies among the works.
For his installation, Smooth chose to create a loosely chronological layout that served the work well. He also installed a monitor in the second gallery that featured our 8-minute video, Victor Ekpuk: Post-Scripts, which was based on an interview I conduced with the artist during his visit at KAM in March 2014. Indeed, by sensitively adapting the exhibition to the Hood’s galleries, Smooth and the Hood design team created a new feel for the show, while still preserving its goals and conceptual coherence.
It was also a pleasure to discuss Ekpuk’s work with members of the local Hanover community, to offer some context on the broader politics of exhibiting African contemporary art, and to provide some backstory to the making of the exhibition. I’m very grateful to Smooth and to the Hood’s interim director, Juliette Bianco, for the opportunity to share the work of this artist!