Washington D.C.’s most captivating artwork is not always found inside the gleaming art galleries along the Mall or in the Dupont Circle art galleries. Often it is found on brick and mortar, painted against the city’s buildings and alley ways.
This is where you will find the masterful artwork of Aniekan Udofia.
Udofia's vibrant and lifelike large-scale paintings and murals have been spotted on buildings and in alleys in nearly every quarter of the city. His unique style of drawing, his fluid characters and their explosive and animated presence has made Udofia an underground celebrity of the street art world.
"Art makes a random place a landmark", said Udofia of street art. "I love that I can create something that wasn't there before, that now brings people together. Now two people walking down the street, both seeing the mural, might stop and have a conversation about it. It helps bring the community together."
Udofia, 37, spent nearly a decade, as a child, in his family's hometown in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. As a child, his mother gave him dozens of coloring books.
"She noticed that I would knock them out so quickly, " Udofia recalled. He began working with other mediums – drawing pencils, acrylics, and eventually aerosol.
Udoifa drew artistic inspiration from the lifelike portraits of Rembrandt, the oblong shapes and cubic characters of Picasso and both the movement and stories told through the paintings of Ernie Barnes. His parents saw his raw talent as more of a hobby. He never attended art school; he received no formal training. “I just had a strong love for art", Udofia said.
Displaying his paintings in art shows and galleries, his passion for art soon developed into profession as more people sought his unique drawings for personal and public works projects. He has been commissioned by MuralsDC, an anti-graffiti program funded by the Department of Public Works and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Words Beats & Life, an organization which provides youth with an artist outlet for expression through graffiti, djing, B-boying and slam poetry. Udofia’s illustrations have also been featured in multiple urban publications such as The Source, XXL, and Vibe magazine.
Udofia's murals can be seen all over the city: Four Men, a mural of radio host Donnie Simpson, the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, comedian Bill Cosby, and President Barrack Obama painted alongside Ben's Chili Bowl on U street northwest; George Washington Silenced, painted just above the marquee of the Shangri-La Day Spa on the corner of 15th and U Streets, N.W.; a mural of Duke Ellington painted high on the Duke Ellington Building at 2121 Ward Place N.W.; Frederick Douglas located on Good Hope Road in Southeast; The Girl with the Pencil, located on Third Street and Florida Avenue, N.W.
Udofia recently participated in the Heineken Mural Project, Sept. 8-13, where he completed a mural of Marvin Gaye, located at 713 S St., N.W. near the Shaw- Howard University Metro station. Currently, Udoifa is working with Art Whino, a D.C.- based art gallery, to participate in their Richmond Mural Project, in which twelve artists are given two weeks to create original murals for Richmond, Va. Udoifa has been given two walls, located at 535 N. Second Street and 205 E. Marshall Street.