Krannert Art Museum

Composition No. 13

Victor Ekpuk
Composition No. 13 (Santa Fe Suite), 2013
50 x 30 inches
Graphite and pastel on paper
Collection of the artist
© Victor Ekpuk


Auto-Graphics: Recent Drawings by Victor Ekpuk

Exhibition Fact Sheet

Checklist (click for images)

Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk is best known for his improvisational use of nsibidi, an ancient form of ideographic writing associated with Ekpe, a transethnic men’s association active in the border regions of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. As a student of fine arts at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife in the mid-1980s, Ekpuk worked in a pedagogical environment that urged students to explore the logics of pattern and design in indigenous African art forms. Ekpuk’s fascination with nsibidi during these years—its economy of line and encoded meanings—led to his broader explorations of drawing as writing and to the invention of his own fluid letterforms. As a mature artist, Ekpuk has so internalized the rhythm and contours of his “script” that it flows from his hand like the outpouring of a personal archive.

In recent years, Ekpuk’s approach to mark making has come to flourish through his investigations of scale, motion, and form. Auto-Graphics features selections from several of Ekpuk’s new bodies of work, including collage, digital prints, and his supersized drawings—bold, vibrant, yet restrained compositions in which nsibidi signs are magnified, cropped, and glided beyond the picture plane. Their dense grounds of micro-script and bristling opaque forms contrast with the more figural works on view. Like nsibidi, which communicates through both visual mark and physical gesture, Ekpuk’s immersive drawings seem to be choreographed with the full force of his body.

Sponsored in part by Krannert Art Museum and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Victor Ekpuk

Born in Nigeria in 1964, Victor Ekpuk received his BFA from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria. Ekpuk works across a range of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture, installation, and public art projects. He was also a prominent political illustrator/cartoonist for Nigerian newspapers before moving to the United States in 1999. Ekpuk has held numerous residencies at art institutions and universities throughout the United States and in Nigeria, the Netherlands, and France, and his work has been featured in major international exhibitions. He has just been selected to contribute work to the 2014 Dak’art Biennale in Senegal. He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C.


Allyson Purpura
Krannert Art Museum
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Allyson Purpura is the curator of African Art at Krannert Art Museum (KAM) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the City University of New York Graduate School and a certificate in museum studies from George Washington University. Her research on the social construction of Islamic expertise in Zanzibar led to her current interest in the broader connections between knowledge and power, particularly as they play out in the representational practices of museums. Her curatorial work engages both the tradition-based and studio-based arts of Africa and its diasporas. Recent exhibition projects include Allan deSouza: The Farthest Point, Counterpoints/Moshekwa Langa: Mogalakwena, and a major reinstallation of KAM’s African collection, Encounters: The Arts of Africa. She is currently researching an exhibition and book project on Swahili arts across the Indian Ocean.


14 drawings in graphite and pastel on paper; 2 mixed media collages; all works framed


In addition to the 16 works in the exhibition, KAM’s installation included an ephemeral drawing by Ekpuk that he executed directly onto the surface of the museum’s entrance wall (11h x 22w feet). Please contact the artist directly to discuss the possibility of including an ephemeral wall drawing in your venue.

Space requirements:

1400 square feet, adjustable

Accompanying materials:

Wall text and select extended labels will be provided electronically.


Loan fee of $8,000 for a 15-week booking, plus pro-rated shipping


Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL
January 23–July 27, 2014

Please contact us for availability between August 15, 2014 and March 15, 2015.

Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
April 18–August 2, 2015

Available from September 1, 2015
(Availability contingent on lending institutions
extending loan agreements)


Kathleen Harleman, Director

Allyson Purpura, Curator of African Art

Click Checklist for select images online.