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Contemporary African Art Collection by Jean Pigozzi

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Richard Onyango

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Born in 1960 in Kisii, Kenya
Lives and works in Malindi, Kenya

For the first thirty years of his life Richard Onyango supported himself through a remarkable range of occupations—sign-painter, bus-driver, woodcarver, carpenter, fashion designer, furniture maker, farmer, animal trainer. He was born in the western highlands of Kenya, near Lake Victoria; while he was still very young his family moved to the developing costal regions. His father worked for the Tana River Irrigation Scheme, and Onyango became fascinated with the signs of industrial development in the African landscape: trucks, tractors, bulldozers, planes, etc. As a child he recorded such impressions in a series of sketches he called “photo pictures” of “whatever my eye could see.” He has explained further, “To keep things properly in mind I had to draw them since I didn’t have a camera to record what I would like to put in memory.”

These elements are still present in Onyango’s paintings today. He frequently chooses to depict situations that waver between the exaltation of imported technology and its fragility. Accidents, warnings, calls for prudence reveal a world constantly threatened by disaster and the unforeseeable. Like many contemporary African artists, Onyango’s pictorial language is characterized by its great legibility. Rather than evidence of primitivism, this legibility demonstrates the importance Onyango accords to representation as a means of direct communication. The unreal theatricality of his work similarly engages the spectator: the distortion of perspective and form and the moody tonality of the heightened palette dramatize the painting’s relationship with the spectator, who in turn becomes a helpless or complicit participant in the events described.

This psychological tension is notably present in the paintings that Onyango dedicated to his relationship with Drosie. White and curvaceous, the young woman is represented in imaginary or real situations that compress all the fantasies that Africa projects onto the West. Whether depicting the couples’ alternating domination and submission or the fascination exercised by a life-style synonymous with luxury and wealth, Onyango succeeds in inverting stereotypes and denouncing their inherent violence.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2011
One & Only Onyango, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi, Kenya

2009 - 2010
Africa? Una nuova storia
Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy

2003
Laboratorio di Rochard Onyango
Atelier del Baglio di Stefano
Gibellina - Italy

2001
Franco Cancelliere Arte Contemporanea
Messina – Italy

2000
A.Bonito Oliva.
Fabbrica EOS
Milan – Italy

1999
Richard Onyango
MAMCO.
Geneva, Switzerland.

1999
Richard Onyango
Fabbrica Eos.
Milan, Italy.

1999
Richard Onyango
Franco Cancelliere Arte Contemporanea.
Messina, Italy.

1992
" The African Way of Painting " Richard Onyango
- Gallery of Contemporary East
African Art. Nairobi, Kenya.
- Fondazione MUDIMA.
Mailand, Italy.
- Salvatore Ala Gallery.
New York, USA.

1991
One man exhibition
Malindi Art gallery.
Malindi, Kenya.

1991
Richard Onyango
- Artifico & Artefatto Gallery.
- White Elephant Sea Gallery.
- Wild Side Shop.
- Malindi, Kenya.

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2014
Ici l’Afrique/Here Africa - L’Afrique contemporaine à travers le regard de ses artistes, Musée des Suisses dans le Monde,Château de Penthes, Pregny-Chambésy, Switzerland

2007
Why Africa?
Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Turin, Italy

2006
100% Africa
Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao, Spain

2005
Arts of Africa
Grimaldi Forum
Monaco - France

2005
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA

2004 (travelling exhibition)
Africa Remix
Art contemporain d’un continent

* 24 July 2004 – 7 Nov 2004
Museum Kunst Palast
Düsseldorf - Germany
* 10 Feb 2005 – 17 April 2005
Hayward Gallery
London – England
* 15 May 2005 – 20 Aug 2005
Centre Georges Pompidou
Paris – France
* Feb – May 2006
Mori Art Museum
Tokyo

2003 –2004
Meridiana Immaginaria
Galeria Eclettica
Milan – Italy

2003
Dreams & Conflicts
50th Venice Biennal
Venice – Italy

2003
Nairobi Serena Hotel
Nairobi - Kenya

1999
" La Tua Africa "
Monte Di Pieta.
Messina, Italy.

1998
Africa Nera Cuore Rosso
Museo di Rosignano Marittimo. Italy.

1996
Neue Kunst Aus Afrika
Im Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt.
Berlin, Germany.

1995
Seven Stories about African Art
Whitechapel Art Gallery.
London, Great-Britain.

1993
Presenze Africane.
Artisti stranieri in Italia
Umbertide. Rocca Centro per l'Arte Contemporanea.
Perugia, Italy.

1992
Wild Life Clubs Kenya Competition
National Museum.
Nairobi, Kenya.

1992
" TER "
- Contemporary Art Gallery
Termoli, Italy.
- Domus Jani, Istituto
Internazionale d'Arte Totale.
Illasi, Italy.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2008
The Life and Times of Richard Onyango, Richard Onyango, Kwani Publishers, 2008

2007
Why Africa?
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Electa & Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli.

2006
100% Africa
Exhibition catalogue. Published by TF Editores & FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.

2005
Arts of Africa: The Contemporary Collection of Jean Pigozzi
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Skira Edition & Grimaldi Forum Monaco.

2005
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.

2004
Africa Remix
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Hatje Cantz.

2000
La Tua Africa
Citta Di Messina. Monte Di Pieta.
Richard Onyango p.101-113.
" La tua Africa " Lucio Barbera, text in Italian p.13-32.
Adriano Parise Editore.

1999
Neue Kunst Aus Afrika
Im Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt.
Berlin, Germany.

1996
Contemporary art of Africa.
Onyango by Emmett Williams P.159-161. Text in English.
Edited by Andre Magnin & Jacques Soulillou.
Publisher Harry N. Abraams.

1996
Kunst Aus Kenya.
Sieben Ostafrikanische Maler.
Richard Onyango p.34-40, text in German.
Bernd Kleine-Gunk. Graphium Press.

1994
Richard Onyango
" The African Way of Painting ".
Book, texts in English, 130 pages.
Vehicules, Vessels, Trains & Planes
Afriano Parise Stampatore.

1992
Malindi 1988-1991.
A Poem, A Novel, A Movie.
Illustrations par Richard Onyango, text in Italian, English and French, 60 pages.
Sarenco. Adriano Parise Stampatore.


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