I construct speculative objects that echo within a residual future and the reminiscent present. These objects interrupt urban spaces, appearing to be foreign bodies, parts of an unknown whole, or agents of change. - Eto Otitigbe
Washington, D.C. - Morton Fine Art is pleased to present Materiel Remains: Consider this a blueprint, a series of blueprints., a solo exhibition and a new series of works by the multidisciplinary artist Eto Otitigbe. A creator best known for his public art installations and site-specific interventions, Otitigbe’s work revolves around the recovery of lost or repressed historical narratives and their visual possibilities within the public eye. In his first solo exhibition with Morton Fine Art, Otitigbe reflects on the recent history of public art and its institutional deployment. Materiel Remains will be on view from May 28 – June 28, 2022 in MFA’s Washington, D.C. gallery.
In his work as a painter, sculptor, curator and fabricator, Otitigbe distorts the materialist distinction between blueprint and artifact, as well as the functional and contextual differences between monuments for posterity and temporary obstructions. Assuming a temporal framework that unravels intent and disaggregates historical coherence, the artist recognizes history as a grand artifice formed from the selective privileging of facts. In this conceptual vision, the role of the monument becomes a manifestation of historical record, visualizing and physically implementing preconceived narratives into present public space while making room for echoes of the past to take shape. Otitigbe’s thoughtful, tactile inversions take on the parlance and pose of public art while tacitly alienating in their collective messaging, creating specific objects that are both recognizable and not, and which play around themes of race, imperialism and historical teleology to excavate forgotten pasts and evoke new futures.
Materiel (sometimes, matériel) refers to equipment, apparatuses, or supplies which are strategically deployed by an institution or group. Primarily a military term, the artist’s co-option of the word in reference to his own work draws attention to the tactility and provenance of his gallery works, as well as the specific geographies of the sites they refer to. Through the incision of engravature, and in traces of paint which stipple each work like a remnant, Otitigbe explores hidden sides of the same artifacts – rummaging through the residue of the large-scale public sculpture projects he’s made over the past four years to rememorialize them from ambiguous perspectives. His fusion of mixed media drawings, sculptural objects, and plate engravings create a new form in turn, somewhere between an object’s schematic conception and its material realization.
By placing in dialogue the conceptual frameworks, design blueprints, specific histories and local landscapes which led to the realization of each work of public art as a discrete interactive form, Otitigbe unearths a profoundly materialist study of modern signifiers in public space. In his current public projects – including his work as a member of the Design Team for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville – Otitigbe has been involved in what theorists of Afrofuturism might term “countermemory”: assemblages which contest the colonial archive to establish the historical character of Black culture. In this current exhibition, Otitigbe collects the remains of these projects for a study of the materiel in the imaginative inquest of a future archaeologist: attempting to both trace and fuse the phenomena of recent history into a blueprint for the previously unseen, as well as to posit new futurist perspectives from which to study and critique the recent past.