About This Artwork

Magdalene Odundo (Kenyan, living in the United Kingdom, born 1950)

Teardrop I, 1996

Terracotta and slip
50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Inscribed and dated under base "Odundo 1996"

Harriott A. Fox Endowment, 1997.63

Kenyan-born ceramic artist Magdalene Odundo is one of the foremost contemporary artists from Africa working today. Born in Kenya in 1950 and currently living in the United Kingdom, Odundo creates works that rely on a unique combination of formal and surface treatments and are almost ethereal in their effect. This piece was one of four vessels that Odundo completed in late 1996. Its highly polished, bright red-orange surface and elegant form were achieved through an exacting and time-consuming process of hand building, followed by intensive burnishing with small polished stones, the application of a terra sigillata slip, and multiple firings. Odundo has explained that in her work she attempts to create pieces with perfect harmony, symmetry, and balance. Her sources of inspiration include ceramics from Africa, the American Southwest, Ancient Greece and Rome, and modern Europe.

Although Odundo’s pots as a whole are distinctive, she does not repeat her work; each vessel is different, although sometimes only subtly. This work is roughly teardrop in shape, with a pointed bottom and wide, flaring hips that attenuate into a graceful, fluted neck with a wide rim. The disparity in size from the base to the mouth creates a tension, producing a visual effect that causes the piece to appear as if suspended in a moment, much like a snapshot or a dancer’s pose (See also 2001.409).

—Permanent Collection Object Description

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Women’s Work: African Terracotta Vessels, July 26–Sept. 14, 1997, no cat.

Chicago, Ill., Columbia College Art Gallery, Contemporary African Art, Feb. 12–Apr. 16, 2001. no cat.

Publication History

Simon Olding, “Magdalene Odundo: Ceramics and Curatorship,” in Anthony Slater-Ralph, ed., Magdalene Odundo (Hampshire and Burlington, Vt.: Lund Humphries, 2004), pp. 63-89; 79, 118 (ill.), cat. 111.

Ownership History

Anthony Slater-Ralph, Santa Barbara, Calif., 1996; sold to the Art Institute, 1997.

View mobile website