A mural takes shape at the UI Stanley Museum of Art

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Odili Donald Odita, abstract painter and professor of painting at Temple University in Philadelphia, speaks on Tuesday about his mural, “Surround,” in the lobby of the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St. ., in Iowa City. The museum will house the university’s art collection, including the Jackson Pollock “Mural” as well as the Odita Mural. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Odili Donald Odita, abstract painter and professor of painting at Temple University in Philadelphia, speaks on Tuesday about his mural, “Surround,” in the lobby of the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St. ., in Iowa City. The museum will house the university’s art collection, including the Jackson Pollock “Mural” as well as the Odita Mural. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jenna Pirello touches up spots along a line separating two colors as work continues Tuesday on the “Surrounding” mural in the lobby of the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St., in Iowa City. The new museum opens to the public in August. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Jenna Pirello touches up spots along a line separating two colors as work continues Tuesday on the “Surrounding” mural in the lobby of the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St., in Iowa City. The new museum opens to the public in August. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Conor Fields removes tape masking one color from another as he and Jenna Pirello and Alan Prazniak (both not pictured) help paint the “Surrounding” mural in the lobby of the Stanley University Art Museum on Tuesday of Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St., in Iowa City. The museum will house the university’s art collection, including “Mural” by Jackson Pollock as well as the “Surrounding” mural by abstract painter and Odili Temple University painting professor Donald Odita in Philadelphia. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Alan Prazniak (left) climbs down a ladder on Tuesday as he and Conor Fields and Jenna Pirello (not pictured) work on the ‘Surrounding’ mural in the lobby of the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of ‘Iowa, 160 W. Burlington St., in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa opens on August 26, Jackson Pollock’s “mural” won’t be the first mural visitors will see. “Surrounding” by Odili Donald Odita will be.

The User Interface Museum’s 8ft by 20ft star attraction Pollock will have its own gallery on the second floor, while Odita’s even larger 13.5ft by 27ft creation will be visible through large bay windows even before visitors. enter the first floor lobby, which is nicknamed “Thresholds”.

And what a splash it will make. With bold geometric patterns flowing and crashing into each other, the entire wall is already taking shape with vivid magentas, yellows, pinks, blues, greens, oranges and aquas hand-blended to from acrylic latex wall paint, so no two shades will ever be the same. in Odita’s projects.

It is full of vivid visual movement, perfectly exemplifying his signature “kaleidoscopic” style, as well as his mission to explore color in historical and socio-political realms.

“I could use different blues or different reds in the work”, Odita. 56, of Philadelphia, said at a media event this week. “For me, it’s important to have this specificity, because people are not just one color or one type of being. There are several types of beings.

“So when I look and think about these different blues, I want you to not only be able to say blue, blue, blue, blue, blue but blue-orange or blue-violet, green-blue, green, blue- yellow Being able to just look at colors and begin to engage them for specificity and for their sense of space.

“And that’s part of how to build that thought process where I’m an African artist, an artist of color – and maybe if we think about the people in the world, the black person in the world, we don’t We could not just say, “Black person, black person, black person, black person”, but “this person here and this person there; this person with the costume; this person with the children. To be able to be more specific and (have) more actually real identifications, as opposed to just a stereotype.

In one look

What: University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

Or: 160 W. Burlington Street, Iowa City

Cut: 63,000 square feet, including over 16,500 square feet of exhibit space and 2,200 square feet of outdoor gallery space

Building cost: $50 million

Architect: BNIM Iowa, Rod Kruse, leader

Opening: August 26, with ribbon cutting at 3 p.m., followed by three groups and gallery visits; August 27, family activities, gallery visits, artistic activities in Gibson Square Park, performances of the Cedar Rapids opera from the 2019 commissions “The Grant Wood Operas: Strokes of Genius”; August 28, more family activities; watch for updates online

Public hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday; closed on Mondays

Admission: Free

Details: stanleymuseum.uiowa.edu/

“As soon as I heard about his work, I knew he was the perfect artist to kick off this series of public art installations in our lobby, which we call ‘Thresholds’,” said the museum director, Lauren Lessing.

“But to really see him come and gather on the wall? I look forward to getting to work every morning because every day is a little different. I really enjoyed having students, members of the public congregate on our patio and peek out of the windows.

About the artist

Odita, an abstract artist and professor of painting at Temple University in Philadelphia, is spending two weeks at the museum to create this initial offering in a series of public installations showcasing the work of artists with deep ties to Iowa. His assistants – Alan Prazniak, Conor Fields and Jenna Pirello – came to Iowa City to help with the installation.

Born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1966, Odita was just 6 months old when his family fled their homeland at the start of the Biafra war.

His parents had studied at UI before he was born, moved back to Nigeria, and then moved back to Iowa City after he was born. Here his father studied printmaking and his mother studied social research.

The couple completed their graduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington before moving to Columbus, Ohio, where Odita’s father founded the Department of African Art History at Ohio State. University. Odita earned her BFA there in 1988, then completed her MFA at Bennington College in Vermont in 1990, majoring in painting and minoring in printmaking and drawing.

He was surrounded by art growing up, from African art and his father’s paintings hanging on the walls, to books on the Renaissance and Picasso. However, he turned to drawing and comics, and later to fashion, his first memories of creating art dating back to the age of 5. Since then, he has pursued an artistic journey, combining education with his own work, exhibited at home and abroad.

“It’s surprising how much the things around you influence your growth,” Odita said. “So I’m thinking back to all this stuff that I watched, and it’s just interesting to see how it goes.”

public art

Odita has returned to Iowa City several times over the years and is now leaving his mark on the new museum for at least a few years, after which museum officials say the space could be repurposed to showcase the work of another. artist.

“One of the challenges of having this beautiful space with so much glass and windows is that sunlight gets inside, and that’s not so good for the pigments,” Lessing said. “The works made in color break down over a period of several years. So we really can’t bring any work from our collection – not much in this space.

“But we want it to be a space filled with art. We want it to be a place where people know right away that we are an art museum. It was therefore a challenge that we decided to take up with works of public art. They come and go over the years, and that’s part of what will enliven this space. After a few years, we could reuse this wall for another job.

The next piece in the “Thresholds” series will not replace Odita’s mural, Lessing noted. Instead, it will be installed in the museum’s second year, in the Skylight – a soaring three-story space in the middle of the lobby that opens to the sky. The only detail revealed about the upcoming coin is that it is destined to disband.

“It’s really experimental, so we’ll see it change over the year it’s installed. And it could look like a lot of different ways,” Lessing said. “But one of the really wonderful things about being a university art museum is that we can experience.”

New dimensions

The new building is “fantastic”, said Odita. “That’s typical of a lot of structures you see, you think maybe it’s not that big. Then you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that’s huge.’ ”

The second floor houses the galleries, with showcases to display specific collections, such as ceramics, but also to store some of the 20,000 pieces in the museum’s collection. The third floor houses classrooms and teaching spaces, as well as two outdoor terraces with sweeping views of downtown Iowa City.

Many walls on the second floor can be moved to other configurations to better accommodate exhibits. The galleries are open enough not to create a maze, but visitors will have to turn a corner to find Pollock’s “mural”. It’s intentional, Lessing said, “creating a sense of surprise when you walk in.”

The return of ‘Mural’ after its absence since the 2008 flood goes beyond visual impact for visitors and into the realm of learning for students.

With this landmark work, created in 1943, Pollock “really got into space and did something totally new, and I love that we have this moment of epiphany, this moment of innovation, because that’s what we want to teach,” Lessing said. . “We want to teach students to do this. Take risks, innovate, be creative, trust yourself, and really step out of the comfort zone (and) into the unknown.

“We’re kind of a portal to the rest of the world – the larger world – and we hope students will walk into this museum and really stretch themselves and come away full of creative ideas.”

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