Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Power of a Woman

  Source: The Prisma

African art in “The power of a woman”

January 24, 2016
An exhibition of paintings at the Gallery of African Art will be in London until Februeary 6th.

The cultural images on show have been painted by the Nigerian artist Nike Davie-Okundale. She is the director of four art centres and owns the biggest gallery in West Africa. Besides that, for the last 20 years her work has been shown in Nigeria, the USA, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and the UK.

ARTE AFRICANO 2As a young person she went to study at Oshogbo, one of the most important art centres in Nigeria. There she learned to paint in Adire, a kind of canvas stained with Indigo, and made by Yoruba women in the south-west of the country. In fact, Nike Davie-Okundale is recognised as the rescuer of Adire in contemporary times, and has received international awards for her importance in the art of painting on this type of canvas. In the show “The power of a woman”, the artist combines new and traditional techniques in the use of Adire, and through ancestral symbols tries to represent messages which range from creating balance to offering advice and cautions. The most striking works in the exhibition include those in the series “Feminine power“, which include monochromatic drawings using pen and ink and others in blue acrylic paint. And one of these creations is currently on loan to the British Library for its exhibition: “West Africa, word, symbol, song”.

Other images show her identity as a chief, mother, wife, daughter, teacher and social entrpreneur. These photographs are by Joanna Lipper, who made a portrait of the Nigerian artist for the first time six years ago in Oshogbo.

ARTE AFRICANO PQA
By means of these snapshots, the award-winning photographer and film-maker wanted to represent feminine power, psychological integrity and spiritual faith, as well as progressive thinking aimed at ensuring the rights of Nigerian women.

The exhibition is being held at the Gallery of African Art, a space created in 2013 and now recognised as the most important place for showing works by contemporary artists from the continent.

Place and times: From December 10th 2015 to February 6th 2016. Gallery of African Art, 45 Albemarle St., London W1S 4JL. Contact: info@gafraart.com ; 44(0) 207 287 7400. More information at www.gafraart.com

(Translated by Graham Douglas)

Picasso at the MoMA, NYC

Source: World Socialist Web Site

Picasso’s sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

By Clare Hurley
18 January 2016
Picasso Sculpture; an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City through February 7, 2016

Is yet another major and uncritical exhibition of Picasso’s work really called for? During his lifetime Picasso (1881-1973) was likely the most famous artist to have ever lived. Forty-two years after his death, he remains—as art critic John Berger observed in his Success and Failure of Picasso —one of the few artists whose name most people in the world recognize, even if far fewer could actually recognize his artwork.

According to a web site devoted to the artist, there are at any given time “perhaps dozens of exhibitions worldwide that feature Picasso, either on his own, or as part of a group show.” And of course his artwork is widely reproduced and imitated.

Unfortunately, the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibit of Picasso’s sculpture—the first major US museum survey in the last 50 years—fails to communicate anything particularly significant about the legendary artist’s interpretation of the social reality and times through which he lived. Or not much that could not have been done in a much more modest show.

Chicago Picasso (1967)
Instead MoMA has given Picasso’s sculpture blockbuster treatment, including more than 140 pieces, many of them repetitive or of negligible quality. The handful of sculptures that are a discovery tend to get lost in the crowd. And of course, the exhibition, presented as an opportunity to see a more “intimate” side of the artist, is very crowded, the timed-admission tickets notwithstanding. In this, as in many instances in the Picasso exhibition, the scale seems to be off.

Chronologically, one begins at the end, with Picasso’s sheet metal sculptures from the 1950s–60s displayed in the balcony area that serves as an entrance to the main exhibition galleries. Here the relatively small size of these pieces belies the fact that many, like Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture (1964), intended as a portrait of Picasso’s wife Jacqueline though it suggests equally a dog or horse’s head, are models for pieces that were ultimately realized over ten times larger as commissions for public spaces.

Indeed, the question of scale taken as a function of perspective, i.e., of relative as opposed to absolute size, is key to Picasso’s work, his paintings as well as his sculpture. For the artist, the scale of features and body parts, once freed from the dictates of realistic proportions, could be as large or small—or completely absent—as his emotional, and most often sexual desires dictated.

The justification for this, asserted through all Picasso’s restless multiplicity of styles, was supposed to be a thorough rejection of the aesthetic traditions that had evolved over centuries of Western art as a means of conveying the content of life.

Woman's Head, Fernande (1909)
The issues bound up with Picasso’s career are very complex. His genius, reflected in his early painting in particular, is not in dispute. Moreover, a great deal of liberating energy was released in the decade preceding the first World War as part of a broad cultural shift reflecting the gathering economic and political tensions that were soon to erupt in war and revolution. However, for reasons that were not the fault of the artists it is questionable whether a radical new understanding of the world and its artistic representation, as was promised and proclaimed, ever came fully to pass. A great many processes were still-born as the result of social developments originating outside the realm of art.

Among the earliest works (1902–09) are small wooden figurines that indicate Picasso’s interest, shared with other early modernists, in African art, which would play a transformative role in how they represented the human figure. The expressive and symbolic qualities of bodily features was emphasized over naturalistic proportions, in an effort to reject the conventions of Western art in favor of something considered more pure, primal and direct.

As developed by Picasso together with fellow painter Georges Braque (1882–1963), cubism’s breaking up of form into facets was supposed to analyze a form’s existence in two-dimensional space by simultaneously showing a multiplicity of views. Woman ’s Head, Fernande (1909)—of Picasso’s mistress—is perhaps the best known cubist sculpture.

Again, one has to be critical of, or at least raise questions about, the sweeping claims made for cubism, which often have a one-sided or even clichéd character. No doubt a variety of political, cultural and scientific developments [including Einstein’s breakthrough in 1905] fed into its emergence. Typically, critic Klaus Honnef writes that behind cubism and related trends were “dynamic” changes that had reached the cultural world and “sharpened the awareness of receptive minds to the fact that the one-point perspective arrangement of painting was merely feigning an illusory fictitious world of reality.”

Woman in the Garden (1929–30)
The last part of this comment, referring to “an illusory fictitious world of reality,” is telling. The scientific advances of the turn of the 20th century, for example, fell on an artistic-intellectual world that was to a great extent under the influence of Nietzscheanism and other irrationalist or subjectivist trends, including Machism, which called into question or denied the existence of a world existing independently of the artist/viewer’s perception.

Ultimately, hemmed in by the defeats of revolution and the rise of Stalinism, Picasso and the avant-garde circles who pioneered 20th century modern art were directed—and directed themselves—back primarily to the inner, subjective world of the artist, to his or her impressions, to a world that came to be ever more constricted in its content till it lost much of its resonance with a broader audience. This development can be traced through in the current show.

The chronology of the exhibition skips from 1915 to 1927, reflecting Picasso’s 14-year hiatus from sculpture, which coincides with the period of the First World War and its aftermath. His return to sculpture came in the form of a commission for a monument to the poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire, the close friend and intellectual mentor of the Parisian avant-garde who is credited with having coined the terms and elaborated the artistic conceptions of “cubism” and “surrealism.”

Head of a Woman (1932)
Wounded in battle, Apollinaire’s death from Spanish flu in 1918 shattered the insularity of the bohemian circle in Paris. A sense of dislocation and horror at the mass slaughter of modern warfare inescapably marked the generation, whether or not a given artist had served in the trenches. Braque, who became a French patriot, had. Picasso, a pacifist, as a Spanish national was exempted.
It took Picasso over four years to create his monument to Apollinaire, a structure “defined by voids as much as by solids,” an idea he drew from Apollinaire’s book Le Poète assassiné (1916). Picasso’s Woman in the Garden (1929–30) is a fanciful, somewhat startled-looking bird-creature made of bits of scrap metal coupled with household objects, oddly lacking the gravitas one would expect in a monument to a significant artistic figure and friend.

The next section of the exhibit, named after the Boisgeloup sculpture studio (40 miles outside Paris), where Picasso worked from 1930–37, is a radical departure in style from the previous one. In the post-World War I period, Picasso and other artists reintroduced classical Greek sculpture and other traditional motifs which they had vigorously rejected before the war to indicate a “return to order,” while maintaining the exaggerated, simplified proportions that had come to define modern art. Picasso’s startling Head of a Woman (1932) combines the voluptuous fullness of stone (here displayed in a plaster cast of the final piece) with a birdlike crest for a nose and etched eye that suggests an anomalously bulbous Cycladic head.

During World War II, Picasso’s international stature ensured that he was one of the few artists deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis who were allowed to stay in occupied Paris after he refused offers to emigrate. From the sculpture in the section “The War Years (1939–45),” one can discern little of the artist’s bitter hostility to the Nazi regime; one mostly gets a sense of the artist’s isolation and his making due with little, albeit brilliantly. Bull’s Head (1942) is simply the seat and handlebars of a bicycle, which he did not alter, cleverly arranged together. More evocatively, Death’s Head (1941) suggests a molten cannonball.


Guernica (1937)

 
It is ironic that no traces of Picasso’s painting Guernica (1937) find expression in three-dimensional form. His artistic response to news of the German and Italian fascist bombing of civilians in the Basque village in April 1937, which was at the center of resistance to Franco, became and continues to be one of the greatest anti-war paintings. Allegedly when Nazi officers came into his apartment in Paris and saw a photograph of Guernica, one of them remarked, “This painting, you did this?” “No,” replied Picasso. “You did this.”
Bull's Head (1942)

Painted as a commission by the Spanish Republican government for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, the painting toured the US after Franco’s victory in 1939, as part of Popular Front campaigns to raise money for Spanish refugees. It continued travelling in response to popular demand until concerns over its physical condition led to its installation at MoMA in 1956. Fiercely anti-fascist throughout his lifetime, Picasso refused to allow the painting to return to Spain as long as Franco remained in power; it was only returned to Spain in 1981. Repeatedly copied and reproduced, Guernica’s harrowing image of the “collateral” human suffering of war is still able to rankle imperialist war-mongers. A tapestry copy hanging in the United Nations had to be covered in 2003 when the Security Council was discussing war on Iraq. Not that it stopped them.

The postwar period of Picasso’s sculpture feels decidedly less original. By this time, the once iconoclastic artist had become a legendary “personality,” whose own fabulous wealth was such that he was able to purchase a house in the south of France with the sale of a single painting. The large-scale commissions of anthropomorphic creatures out of sheet metal produced for public spaces in the United States and Europe seem complacently “modern,” as modernism had become the officially sanctioned style of the postwar boom of the 1950s-early 1960s.

Little Horse (circa 1960)


In Apollinaire’s only book on art, The Cubist Painters, Aesthetic Meditations, a collection of notes and observations, he wrote, “a man like Picasso studies an object as a surgeon dissects a cadaver.” Though intended no doubt to describe the artist’s objectivity, the remark perhaps unintentionally says more about the chilly quality of Picasso’s “greatest” work which often fails to move one.
However, at its best, Picasso’s sculpture can still surprise and delight. His ability to see ordinary objects in radically transformed ways often manifested itself in his inventive use of corrugated cardboard, chicken wire, nails, screws and string in such pieces as Woman with Leaves (1934), The Orator (1933–34), and Woman with Orange/Apple (1934) to suggest a race of hybrid creatures, only part human, metamorphosed out of ordinary, everyday materials. Others, like the delightful Little Horse (circa 1960) made by Picasso as a toy for his son, are genuinely intimate, and not really “sculpture” at all.

Artist and Empire


Source: Wall Street Journal

‘Artist and Empire’ Review

An exhibition examine’s Britain’s colonial past.

 

‘The Remnants of an Army; Jellalabad, January 13th, 1842’ (1879).  
by Elizabeth Butler
Photo: Tate Museum, London

Jan. 5, 2016 4:56 p.m. ET
Artist and Empire - Tate Britain - Through April 10, London

A ferocious Britannia puts a Bengal tiger to the sword. A mother and baby lie slaughtered at her feet. For many, “Retribution” (1858) by Edward Armitage captures the essence of the British Empire. The animal represents India, which rose against its colonial masters in 1857, massacring, in one terrible incident, almost 200 women and children. The British took bloody revenge; order was restored.

Typical of the British sense of right—and might—the uprising was condemned at home as the Indian Mutiny; India hails it as the first nationalist uprising but in these more sensitive times, many historians refer to it as the Indian Rebellion. Whatever the bloody incident is called the painting is an unambiguous statement of don’t-mess-with-us superiority, but it is not typical of the works that captured the imagination of the nation at the height of Empire. No, what really stirred the populace was heroic failure— the untimely deaths of generals in battle or glorious defeats against overwhelming odds.

Take “The Death of General Gordon, Khartoum, 26th January, 1885” by George Joy. Gordon was hacked to death defending the British garrison in the Sudan city of Khartoum, yet Joy has him proud and resolute, almost disdainful, as spear-wielding dervishes swarm toward him. The portrait helped establish Gordon as a hero and a martyr to the cause of Empire.

“Artist and Empire,” at London’s Tate Britain gallery (through April 10, 2016), sets out to explain how colonial Britain was portrayed from the late 16th century to the swaggering power of the 18th and 19th centuries and on to the present day.

The exhibition reflects a past about which many in Britain are ambivalent— evoking pride in some; in others shame that power involved cruelty and slaughter. The Tate owes its own existence to the merchant Henry Tate, who gave £80,000 for its construction, having made a fortune in the sugar trade that flourished on the back of slavery.

The exhibition opens with maps, and here the predominant color is pink—the color that would delineate an empire that included Australia, South Africa, the Indian subcontinent and more. The first time the color appeared was in 1733 on Henry Popple’s “Map of the British Empire in North America with the French and Spanish and Dutch Settlements Adjacent Thereto,” which showed a territory stretching from the Grand Banks in Newfoundland to Spanish-owned Florida.

The maps served a practical purpose for the burgeoning maritime power as it sought new territories to colonize—but can also be interpreted as an expression of permanence; that this empire was here to stay.

How fleeting that proved to be in the case of Popple’s map. Yet how potent those pink splashes on the globe became as scenes and sagas of triumph and tragedy were played out—and how adroitly hopeless heroism was spun into triumph.

In Elizabeth Butler’s “The Remnants of an Army; Jellalabad, January 13th, 1842,” what seems to be the sole survivor of a rout in the First Anglo-Afghan War reaches the gates of the British garrison in today’s Jalalabad. He is emaciated, wounded, exhausted, his horse can scarcely stand, but when the image was shown at London’s Royal Academy in 1879 at the time of the Second Anglo-Afghan War it drew tears from the audience. Defeat was turned into a kind of triumph—not an interpretation that would garner much credence today.

The art of the portrait, too, emphasized a scarcely ruffled sense of power, the assumption that the Empire was run by men of panache who had right and might on their side. James Sant portrayed Capt. Colin Mackenzie (c.1842) as a dashing figure, arrogantly appropriating the robes of the Afghan tribesmen against whom he was fighting. Never mind that the captain was held hostage after the rout at Jalalabad and almost sold into slavery.

By the 20th century, when Britain was hastily shedding its empire, the result was more of a sharing and intermingling of cultures than of the recrimination that could have been expected from the post-colonial countries. Many artists from the colonies studied in Europe, and the result, says co-curator Carol Jacobi of the Tate, was a kind of “international modernism” perhaps best expressed by Nigerian Ben Enwonwu, whose “Head of a Nigerian Girl” (1957) celebrates African beauty with the kind of techniques he learned at London’s Slade School of Fine Art. He argued that artists like Picasso, Braque and Vlaminck were influenced by African art but, he wrote: “When they see African artists who are influenced by their European training and technique, they expect that African to stick to their traditional forms.”

The Tate obviously felt they had to redress the balance against empire’s pomp and circumstance with contemporary works but unfortunately they are often one-note and obvious in their hostility. In a work completed this year, Andrew Gilbert parodies the army fighting the Boer War in South Africa with “British Infantry Advance on Jerusalem, 4th of July, 1879” by dressing the soldiers in masks, feathers, fur and a leopard skin to make them appear as “primitive” as the enemy they fought. The work shows, rather bluntly, how assumptions change and the past is reinterpreted—though the process was well under way by the end of World War II, when war paintings fell out of favor. In the 1960s the picture of Gen. Gordon, once so stirring, was taken back by relatives and given to his old school, where, says co-curator David Blayney Brown (also of the Tate), it was used as a dart board.

Mr. Holledge is a freelance arts writer based in the U.K.

African Art at Piedmont Arts

Blockbuster Exhibition of African Art from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Display at Piedmont Arts


Source: Martinsville Daily
By Bill Wyatt / in Life, Top Story
on Thursday, 07 Jan 2016 06:44 PM

Obj. No. 87.82 African, Kuba Culture (Zaire) Mukenga Mask, 19th – 20th century Raffia, cloth, leopard skin, wood, cowrie shells, glass beads, string 19½”H x 17”W x 22”D 49.53 cm x 43.18 cm x 55.88 cm Image must be credited with the following collection and photo credit lines: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund. Photo: Katherine Wetzel      © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Obj. No. 87.82
African, Kuba Culture (Zaire)
Mukenga Mask, 19th – 20th century
Raffia, cloth, leopard skin, wood, cowrie shells, glass beads, string
19½”H x 17”W x 22”D
49.53 cm x 43.18 cm x 55.88 cm
Image must be credited with the following collection and photo credit lines:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund.
Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Martinsville, VA —Fortune, Courage, Love: Arts of Africa’s Akan and Kuba Kingdoms from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a blockbuster exhibition of African artworks from the VMFA’s permanent collection, will open at Piedmont Arts on January 16.
 
A curatorial partnership between William King Museum of Art Curator, Leila Cartier, and VMFA’s Curator of African Art, Richard Woodward, has resulted in an exhibition that brings together art from the ancient empire of Mali, the Akan kingdoms of Ghana, and the Kuba kingdom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“The arts of Ghana’s Akan and the Congo’s Kuba kingdoms are elaborate in design and visually stunning,” said Woodward. “As Curator of African Art, I am thrilled that such an important and beautiful part of the collection will be shared with the Piedmont Arts audience.”

Visitors from around the Commonwealth will have the opportunity to see African objects from the VMFA’s collection first-hand. Included in the exhibition are elements of royal regalia, dozens of gold weights – small figures and objects that often communicate proverbs and are used to weigh out gold dust – masks and other ceremonial objects, sculptures, and three spectacular Kente Cloths.

One of several in the works, this Statewide project has developed from a seed of an idea into an exhibition that has traveled to three VMFA Statewide Partner museums: William King Museum in Abingdon; Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke; and Piedmont Arts in Martinsville.

“We are excited to work once again with Piedmont Arts to bring the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to the Martinsville region,” said Jeffrey Allison, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Collection educator and manager of statewide programs and exhibitions. “As one of our oldest Statewide Partners, we have a long history of sharing VMFA organized exhibitions, programs and performances for all audiences.”
Gina Collins, VMFA’s exhibitions project coordinator added, “The VMFA is thrilled to once again partner with Piedmont Arts. Our Statewide Partnership program is an essential part of our mission and goals. It allows us to bring art from our global collection to all parts of the Commonwealth.”

Fortune, Courage, Love: Arts of Africa’s Akan and Kuba Kingdoms from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will be on display at Piedmont Arts January 16 – March 5, 2016.  
Also on display at Piedmont Arts January 16 – March 5, 2016:
Kind Cuts
Dennis Winston’s woodcuts reflect both his urban and rural experiences. As an artist, he is driven by needs that are both aesthetic and social. His themes are universal and are concerned with the everyday reality of all human existence. The woodcut allows Winston to use a bold and direct black and white approach in his work. This is an ordinary medium through which he endeavors to capture moments in the lives of ordinary people. His work reveals his subject’s character, the history that has shaped them and the spirit that sustains them. These works express essential ideas, and he has merged his vision and the medium to celebrate both the process and his perception.
Winston is a graduate of Norfolk State University (magna cum laude) and the University of Richmond (Masters of Humanities) and has done post-graduate work at the University of Colorado and Virginia Commonwealth University. He has served on the faculties of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University. In June 2005, he retired as the Coordinator/Supervisor of Arts Education (K-12) and the Humanities Center for Richmond Public Schools.
Current Brushstrokes
A love of motorcycles led Pepper Martin to become an artist. While admiring the airbrushed artwork at a bike show, she thought to herself, “I could do that!” She first dabbled in painting while keeping her day job, but the birth of her daughter made her realize she had to take a leap of faith and become a woman who fully pursues her dreams; a woman her daughter can look up to. Martin is well-known for her portraiture and for teaching monthly Young Artists and Painting and Pinot classes at Piedmont Arts. Martin’s work will be on display in the museum’s Lynwood Artists Gallery.
Piedmont Arts exhibits are open to the public and are always admission free. Museum hours are TuesdayFriday: 10 am – 5 pm and Saturday: 10 am – 3 pm.
Members-Only Reception
Friday, January 155:30 – 7:30 pm • Piedmont Arts

Piedmont Arts will host a free Members-Only Reception in honor of these exhibits on Friday, January 15 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the museum. Piedmont Arts members, prospective members, artists and guests are invited to attend. Complimentary wine and light refreshments will be served.
VMFA Curator of African Art, Richard Woodward, will give a gallery talk at 6 pm.
Please RSVP attendance by calling 276.632.3221 or online at PiedmontArts.org.
This reception is generously sponsored by Imogene and Christina Draper, Dr. James E. Rountree, Kenneth and Joyce Staples, Martinsville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Patterson Foundation, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Lynwood Artists and Piedmont Arts.

Piedmont Arts is a nonprofit art museum in Martinsville, Virginia that inspires and engages the diverse Martinsville-Henry County community and surrounding areas through visual arts, performing arts and arts education. Piedmont Arts is a statewide partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Piedmont Arts programming is partially supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Learn more at www.PiedmontArts.org.

The Inspiration for Modernity

France-Africa : Senufo African art that inspired Picasso comes to France

Source: RFI
06 December 2015
 
A helmet is on display during the exhibition 'Senufo - The Art and Identity in West Africa' at the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, France on November 27, 2015.
A helmet is on display during the exhibition 'Senufo - The Art and Identity in West Africa' at the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, France on November 27, 2015.
AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT

It inspired visionary artists like Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger, now Senufo art comes to France. The Fabre museum in Montpellier presents “Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa”, to the public from November 28th, 2015 to March 6th, 2016.

By RFI

It's the first large-scale exhibition of the art of the Senufo people of West Africa to go on display in France.

“Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa”, explores the origins of the people who created it in new ways.

The people known to the Western world as Senufo, live in a triangular region that comprises Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso. Although they share a common language and culture, they don't necessarily refer to themselves as Senufo, even if the Western world calls them that.
Senufo is like France’s francophonie term, which refers to a linguistic speaking community.
Yet the name Senufo was imposed on them by French colonial officials. When their art made it to Europe in the late 1880s, the name was imposed on it as well.

In the exhibition, complementary male and female statues abound. Masks can be seen in serene or terrifying postures, with horns and tusks curving around glaring eyes.

Much of the art is abstract with strong aesthetics. Its distinctive cubist shapes and masks influenced well-known artists like Pablo Picasso, who dabbled in African art for two years during his African period. Picasso and other key figures like Henri Matisse contributed to the spread of interest in African-influenced modernism among the avant-garde in the United States.
Senufo art is widely recognized as the distinctive work of a particular culture and as powerful abstract art in its own right. The exhibit is currently on display at the Fabre museum in Montpellier until March next year.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Birth of a Nation

‘Birth Of A Nation’ Electrifies Sundance Crowd In World Premiere

Birth Of A Nation


“Without an honest confrontation, there is no healing.” That’s from Birth Of A Nation director-producer-star Nate Parker today onstage at the Sundance Film Festival. In what I have to say was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had at a movie theater, Parker world premiered what he called his seven-year “passion project.” His telling of the early 19th century slave revolt led by Nat Turner had audience members crying in their seats and jumping to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation at the film’s conclusion.

Potential buyers for the film streamed out of the lobby mere minutes after the cast had left the stage post-screening. Some worked multiple cell phones (with assistants standing nearby fielding calls of their own) in what appeared to be fevered discussions about the awards-bait film.

Speaking to the packed Eccles Theater crowd with almost the entire cast beside him after the lights came up, Parker said, “I made this movie for one reason only, creating change agents,” adding, “there are still a lot of injustices in our world.”

Guggenheim Bilboa - The Future of Design is Africa



"KUBAISM"
by Joe Pollitt
Acrylic Tiles
Size: 20cm x 20cm
Date: 2015






Artist Statement: "The conceptional ideas here are to take the designs created in Central Africa from the Kuba Kingdom and stretch them inwardly, in order to create a sense of weightlessness and a feeling of suspension."

 

Guggenheim: The future of design is Africa


(CNN) Is African design having a moment? 

Not according to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a denizen of contemporary art. Rather, the curators believe the continent's artists and architects are shaping the future of design entirely. In their latest exhibit, Making Africa -- A Continent of Contemporary Design, the museum showcases some of the freshest names in the art world as a whole (they just happen to all be African).

Shaping a new world order

 

"The Guy with Style" (2013), from the series "Moments of Transition" by Mario Macilau
Alito.
Style" (2013), from the series "Moments of Transition" by Mario Macilau Alito.
Co-curators Amelie Klein and Petra Joos note that despite common perceptions that shape Africa as a land of "famine, corruption, or imposing landscapes," one of the most defining features of the continent is innovation.

"The world as we know it is in transformation -- politically, economically, socially, culturally and technologically. Anyone wanting to know how design can facilitate or even accelerate this change would be well advised to look to the south, especially at Africa, where the changes are very evident," she says.

"African design covers a fascinating spectrum of concerns that goes beyond recycling, traditional craft, or humanitarian design."

 

Road to Bilbao

 

"Sunsum" (2015), by David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates.
"Sunsum" (2015), by David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates.

Researching for the exhibition "was a long process" Joos says, telling CNN about the many trips she took to Lagos, Dakar, Cape Town, Nairobi and Cairo. However she adds that it was mainly local artistic communities calling the shots.

"We had think tanks with intellectuals, directors and artists," she explains. They asked questions such as "What is design?" "What is Africa?" "What is African design?" the results of which found their way into the show's prologue.

"It's interesting because there was a lot of difference of opinion," says Joos. "They agreed; sometimes they disagreed. The visitor will see that in the exhibition."

Split into four sections, Making Africa negotiates many areas: "Prologue" addresses Western preconceptions; "I and We" looks at African solutions and responses to communication -- both at an intimate and societal level; "Space and Object" discusses environmental influences on creativity; and "Origin and Future" explores the notion of time.

Overall, 120 artists helped participate in exhibition, which includes the work of design heavyweights like Nigerian photographer J.D. Ojeikere and British-Tanzanian David Adjaye. These titans of the scene make their presence felt alongside the likes of Afrofuturist Ikire Jones and sculptor Cheick Diallo. All have equal footing when telling the story of contemporary African design, and help showcase the diversity of its creative community.

Stretching out across the globe

 

The Kingdom of Taali M (2013), by Pierre-Christophe Gam.
The Kingdom of Taali M (2013), by Pierre-Christophe Gam.
Joos notes that the size of the African diaspora abroad has led to cross-pollination in the world of design, whereby Africans abroad influence and are influenced by the cultures that surround them.
"We did an exhibition a few years ago when we only invited African artists living on the continent, but now it's absolutely impossible, because we have so many Africans going back and forth. They're living in Africa, but also in Paris, in London, even the United States."

This manifests itself in their work, she argues. "They're absolutely connected to everything," she says. "They are not limited by European design, for example. They know what's going on everywhere, and filter that through their culture and traditions."
Unlike European design however -- which Joos argues is "more formal" and "industrially realized" -- Africans are reveling in the journey towards the final object. "Africa [is] a hub of experimentation, generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance, and [is] a driving force for a new discussion about the potential of design in the twenty first century."

"The process is more important than the result," Joos says; "this informal creativity is so African. It's not European, it's not American, and it makes a big difference to us."

'Making Africa -- A Continent of Contemporary Design' runs until February 21.