For BOMB’s Oral History Project, Odita, known for his geometric paintings, recalls growing up as a refugee from the Nigerian Civil War and the influence of his father, a historian of African art.
“Right, they weren’t paintings, they weren’t colorful, but I kept doing them because that’s what would come to me. I could have stopped, I suppose, but to me they seemed like good pieces and they were in line with my thinking. Artists do what they think is important to them in their life span. That’s what they’ve always done—Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Picasso. They did what they did because they thought it was important.”
An experimental documentary on border crossing, less about that place than what it represents.
“I didn’t want to paint figuratively. I didn’t want something that was overtly referencing the social issues around me, but I wanted to find a way to describe them. How do you internalize this? How do you make a form that forces a painting to be an experience that is not necessarily easy to see, handle, or look at?”
“The reward is getting through the tough stuff. And that’s what’s perplexing about the art thing. When I was going to school there were kids that could draw their asses off. There were kids that were better draftsman than me, for certain. But no one was more determined than me.”
“I don’t want to mention names, but there are several black artists that would like to shoot me today because they weren’t in that show. Some of them are dead, but the ones that aren’t dead still give me a lot of bullshit every time I see them.”
“I’m fighting between control and letting nature take its course.”
“I just wanted to be sure I didn’t get caught not expressing what I thought was important to me. That can easily happen, because you can easily get discouraged by not being allowed to participate, or just being ignored, when you know your work is beyond ignoring.”
Late one night in the summer of 2002 or 2003, I was in Berlin, having just returned after six months in Paris. Friends told me of a woman I just had to meet, a bartender at Barbie Deinhoff’s.
“We have to tell the truth in the image.”
“Photographers and artists are alchemists at the highest level, I think.”
“One is constantly working over what happened and constructing the future based on the past. So there’s no way of saying now we’re done with the past and it’s time to look for our future. No, there’s a direct continuity between these things.”
Clark talks to his friend and fellow painter, Jack Whitten, about growing up in Louisiana, coming of age in Chicago, heady days in Paris, and living in New York City when the abstract expressionists ruled.
“I would like to do more of that kind of thing: travel, spend some time in a place and really work from a different vantage point. I don’t know what will happen in my work from that, but I trust my ability to find the tools to find my way into my work. I think I will sit out in the woods more.”
“The collage works are going to be life-size. My work increased in scale when I realized that I wanted people to enter the worlds or to see them almost like dioramas— these places that they could be immersed into, with their own social structures and their eco-systems.”
In the early 1930s, shortly after the invention of the portable audio recorder, the Federal Writers’ Project documented the experience of slavery by interviewing those who had lived under it.