Wegweiser: EL Loko & Owusu-Ankomah

8 May - 6 June 2020 Berlin

In its first exhibition ARTCO Berlin presents works by two artists, which are among the classics of contemporary African art that ventured onto the European art scene in the early 1970s. Both artists belong to the first generation of African creative artists who came to Germany at a time when African contemporary art could only be found in the ethnological environment of ethnological museums. The fact that works by contemporary African artists have now reached the established art market, museums and galleries in this country, is contributed to the commitment of artists such as EL Loko and Owusu-Ankomah. The commitment of artists such as EL Loko and Owusu-Ankomah have paved the way for works by contemporary artists to reach the established art market, museums and galleries in Germany.The fact that works by contemporary African artists have now reached the established art market, museums and galleries in this country, is contributed to the commitment of artists such as EL Loko and Owusu-Ankomah.

 

EL Loko, the painter, sculptor and writer, who unfortunately died too early in 2016, came to Germany at the age of 21. From 1971 he studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with professors Beuys, Crummenhauer and Heerich. He graduated as the first African master student of Joseph Beuys' class. Although EL Loko often stayed in his native Togo - even for extended periods of time – the center of his life had always been Germany. However, EL Loko never denied his African roots and - as he himself emphasised - felt them more and more over the years. He continued to sponsor fellow artists from his home country. The large number of projects and encounters for the exchange between European and African artists, which were initiated by him, bear witness to this endeavor. EL Loko's oeuvre, created over a period of more than 40 years, encompasses diverse work cycles of different techniques and materials and extends from graphics and painting to plastics, installation and performance and photography. In the field of tension that opened up for him between the culture and tradition of his African homeland and the modernity of Europe, he developed his typical design language and his unmistakable artistic expression. EL Loko himself was a universal world artist. He was never “about African art”, but always about art beyond all geographic and cultural borders. However, it was always important to him to take up, convey and comment on questions and topics in Africa in his works. In this exhibition, ARTCO shows, in addition to early paintings, a collection of woodcuts, some of which were created during his student days in Düsseldorf.

 

An artistic companion and friend of EL Loko’s is the painter Owusu-Ankomah, who lived in Bremen for many years.Kwesi Owusu-Ankomah was born in Sekondji, Ghana, in 1956. It was clear to him very early on that he would use his creative skills to become an artist.He started studying at the College of Art in Accra at the tender age of 15. After successfully graduating in 1974, he began to work seriously artistically and moved to Germany. Owusu-Ankomah dealt intensively with European art history. He was fascinated by both modernity and Renaissance artists. Michelangelo is one of his great role models. In his paintings the influences of European art history blend with the influences of classic African design-language to create an exciting composition. Human beings, represented as a single individual or as a group of figures, almost always appear in the center of his works and, particularly in the paintings of recent years, are permeated and overlaid with mysterious symbols. These symbols, so characteristic of his works, come from his West African homeland. These Adinkra symbols of the Akan, the backgrounds of meaning that are rooted in them, are regarded in Ghana as the ancestors or the traditional knowledge of the ancestors. They are much more than illustrations - they offer people orientation in the confusing world of the present. In this exhibition there are exemplary paintings from his MOVEMENTS work cycle that clearly reflect this topic.