Ifeoma Anyaeji - "Transmogrification" at Skoto Gallery, NYC

Detail Cancer and Contours, 2011, 
Discarded plastic bags (Plasto-yarns
and bottles, twine and wood. 39 x 41 x 8 inches
Skoto Gallery has unfailingly shown high quality art in New York since 1992. The gallery’s specialty is African contemporary art, and Skoto was the first to provide an NYC space to El Anatsui, for example, whose art is now displayed in many museums worldwide.

The current exhibition, on view through November 2, 2013, is called Transmogrification: works by Ifeoma Anyaeji. It is a very original and also timely exhibition using surprising materials for the three-dimensional art and sculpture.

Ifeoma Anyaeji
Ifeoma, born and raised in Benin City, Nigeria, studied painting at the University of Benin in her hometown, as an undergraduate. However, sculpture was always her passion, and 3 years ago she won a Ford Foundation Fellowship award and attended Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri, USA). She eschewed traditional materials to concentrate on used plastic bags, “up-cycling” them, rather than “recycling,” in order to add value. One of the techniques she uses is threading, a traditional West African hair plaiting technique which uses thread.
Oche Onodu (Couch), 2012, Discarded plastic bags
(Plasto-yarns) and bottles, metal cans, wood, metal, 
twine, carpet yarn and video on DVD, 
128.04 x 68.04 x 27 inches (Couch);
 51.96 x 18.96 x 18.96 inches (for TV stand) and 14 mins 36 secs (for the video) 
Due to the petroleum industry in Nigeria, and plastic being a petroleum-based product,
plastic bags have become ubiquitous in Nigeria, and are usually discarded without being recycled, often polluting the environment.
Ifeoma’s works celebrate the extension of value in a material, otherwise condemned to be discarded, with no guarantee of being recycled. Not only does her work embrace this peculiar medium but it promotes a craft process, a hair braiding technique, that has been considered “out-of-fashion” in Nigeria. Thus, Up-cycling both material and culture.

Mmili (Water), 2011, Discarded plastic bags
 (Plasto-yarns) and bottles, wood, and twine. 
42.5 x 39.5 x 10 inches
My work embraces the idea of material usefulness and reuse through the transformation of a discarded object’s physical state, as an alternative to recycling by mechanized chemical disintegration. Using these unique mediums to create forms that visually express the narrative of a domestic object’s possible transition from the discarded to the aesthetic pictorial or the decorative or functional, in the absence of a mechanized process. This I conceive by creating a complexity of sculptural forms that allowed for multiple interpretations of the functionality of an object after it has been consumed. The object referred to been the discarded or that bound for the waste bin, as no longer having a value. Using forms inspired by architectural structures and household furniture I try to explore the possibility of achieving an environmentally sustainable practice through the means of unconventional Up-cycling (recycling) processes.”
Ifeoma calls her style of art "Plastoart", coined from the words plastic and art. She hopes her concept of “up-cycling” will encourage others to follow her lead in making art from plastic bags; it would form a model for small-scale entrepreneurial Up-cycled Plastoart craft initiatives in her home country, especially.
Ifeoma teaches at her alma mater in Benin City and also has another solo exhibition, Plasto-yarnings: a conversation with plastic bags and bottles, simultaneously showing at the Alliance Française in Nairobi, Kenya.

Detail of Akpalakpa II, 2012, Discarded plastic bags, metal wire and wood. 84 x 66 x 18 inches  
Akpalakpa II, 2012, Discarded plastic bags, metal wire and wood. 84 x 66 x 18 inches  

Oche Blue (Blue Chair), 2011, Metal, discarded plastic bags 
and plastic electric wire rim, and wood. 44.4 x 36 x 27.6 inches
Eze na Ozo (Red cap chiefs), 2013. Discarded plastic bags (plasto-yarns) and bottle caps, and twine  

Hair threading video demonstration, 2012


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