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The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End

September 30, 2008–April 5, 2009

Atta Kwami (Ghanaian, b. 1956)

Over time, I have been better able to embody those aspects of my everyday life which have the greatest significance: kiosks, commercial (sign) painting, woven textiles, Ghanaian music (Koo Nimo) and jazz, all of which allow for serial composition in strips, stripes, grids. I have focused on color as my subject matter, perhaps taking me back to where I started with the perception of my mother's paints and textiles, but my art also resonates, I have seen, with the wider world of color formalist painters, such as Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Sean Scully, and Ellsworth Kelly.

—Atta Kwami (Kumasi, January 2008)

Atta Kwami draws inspiration from the sensory stimuli of his adopted urban environment of Kumasi, the cultural capital of the Asante region. His abstract imagery is a synthesis of elements: pulsating musical rhythms, the city's dynamic entrepreneurial landscape, and the vibrant designs and intense colors of regional textile traditions. While he has regularly produced large-scale installation works, he imbues meaning into the small visual detail as one might isolate a musical chord or interlude.

Atta Kwami has combined his work as a fine artist with his desire to chronicle Ghanaian art history. The title of his soon-to-be published doctoral thesis is Kumasi Painting, 1951–2007. His mother, Grace Salome Kwami, a gifted artist and educator, served as a critical formative influence. A sculptor, weaver, and painter, she submitted watercolors and gouaches to Ghanaian textile manufacturers in the 1960s. At the prestigious Achimota School, Atta Kwami studied weaving, among other art subjects, with an Ewe master. Kwami holds degrees in painting and art history from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, the Royal College of Art in London, and The Open University, Milton Keynes, in the U.K., and a diploma from the Royal College of Art, London. For more than twenty years he was Senior Lecturer of painting and printmaking at KNUST. His work is exhibited internationally and he has served as a major catalyst for bringing together Ghana's fine arts community.