Odili Donald Odita

New York

at Jack Shainman


Eight large-scale paintings on canvas and walls (all 2010), and an earlier piece on Plexiglas, comprised Odili Donald Odita’s second solo at Jack Shainman. All nine are showstoppers. Odita continues his angular abstraction and chromatic infusions by both splintering and expanding his signature wedges of color. He may place the wedges on both sides of a center line, as in Reach, or run them all the way across the canvas, as in the small but powerful The Edge. Through repetition and variation of form, Odita establishes rhythms that are shifting and pulsing and entirely unpredictable. He subtly alters the balance of the compositions by, for example, painting a band along one edge of the canvas, shortening the wedges on that side, or amassing larger wedges on the other. And the wedges sometimes seem to cross each other, shifting hues in the process.

Given a prominent position at the far end of the gallery, most visible from the street, was the roughly 7 1⁄2-foot-square canvas Point of Return. Here the angular forms meet at what resembles a diagonal crease as if Odita had painted his elongated pie slices on a piece of paper and folded it so that sections of wedges overlap one another. The irregular division and expansion of the slices looks intuitive, recalling Gary Lang’s unplanned color divisions and layering; both painters are magical colorists, too.

Viewers entering the main gallery had their heads turned by Free Form, the largest canvas in the show at about 9 by 11 feet, hung on the far wall. Its wedges are arranged to make tapering zigzag and sharp boomerang shapes, so that the whole canvas throbs like an oversize polychrome Nude Descending a Staircase. Also compelling were the wall paintings in the project rooms. Both responded to the architecture by lapping onto adjacent walls or the vaulted ceiling so that the corners seemed torqued and spatial order dissolved in color and motion.

Born in Nigeria and raised in the U.S., Odita became known for Noland-ish paintings that adopted the palette of his African heritage (landscape or textiles), and in the gallery’s press release he says the current works continue his exploration of black in both color and sociopolitical senses. Yet the broader exhibition title, “Body and Space,” more aptly reflects his exhilarating presentation.

Photo: Odili Donald Odita: Reach, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 84 by 109 inches; at Jack Shainman.