With the use of mixed media paintings Aniekan Udofia forces you to take off your rose colored glasses and see the world through his eyes. When I first stumbled upon Aniekan’s portraits of hip hop artist, I was impressed, so impressed that I asked him if I could interview him. After our first phone conversation he quickly let me know that he’s much more into his “real” stuff, he goes on to tell me about one piece he painted with George Bush in full gangsta mode with his shirt pulled up exposing a tupac-esqe stomach tattoo that says “Got Oil”. As the conversation continued we talk about everything from how he has been asked to remove his paintings from galleries to why art school sucks. After a series of phone calls ranging in lengths from five minutes to over two hours I figured I had all the info I needed, so I scheduled a meeting to see his work in person.
The very next day I hopped in my car and headed over to his spot. The building was a little sketchy. I had to enter the locked front door with a tenant who pretty much gave me the third degree about where I was going and if I lived there. Then I almost got stuck on the elevator. I was thinking maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. As soon as I arrived at his studio, I knew it was the best idea. The walls were completely covered with paintings; paintings were stacked in corners, in the kitchen, all over. Sketch books were scattered everywhere under tables and other hiding places and there was paint everywhere. This may seem pretty standard for an artist studio, but when I say “studio” I really mean his efficiency apartment. I desperately wanted to ask him where he slept, but I didn’t want to be suggestive. I was there to inquire about his art, not his sleep habits.
Scanning his body of work for one stand out piece was pointless. Each painting spoke to me in some way. It’s obvious that his work is influenced by his views of the world and more importantly life in America. “America is like Disneyland; you come here and forget all about the problems in the world.” Even the most patriotic citizen can’t deny that. America is the land of distraction and excess. I just nodded my head and laughed.
Music is also a huge influence on his work. While growing up in Nigeria, hip-hop culture reached across continents and drew him in. Many of his paintings have hip hop lyrics painted on them, one in particular has a picture of a child with a gun and smaller photo-realist drawings of George Bush, to the left are the lyrics “Why am I wrong if I kill a nigga that punches me but it’s right for you to blow up a whole country?” Messages like this make it impossible for his work not to affect you. He makes you think. Makes you look away from the latest reality T.V. show and say, “something is not right here.” Aniekan himself is just as charged as his work. When asked what his inspiration was he quickly replied, “Dumb people. Stupid ass people, when a grown ass man sags his pants to his knees, when bouncers don’t let people into clubs with sneakers; that is my inspiration.”
For more information on Aniekan Udofia check out his Myspace page.
Photo credit: Jati Lindsay