Dolls Never Die
Gérard Quenum, Je suis le messager (I’m the Messenger), 2012. Wood, metal, shells and plastic doll,
178 x 37 x13 cm. Photo: C Laurent
October Gallery is pleased to announce Dolls Never Die, the second solo exhibition of new works by sculptor Gérard Quenum.
Dolls Never Die will present a series of new sculptures and an installation composed of recycled objects whose diverse histories contribute much to the overall significance of the pieces themselves. Like many of his contemporaries coming out of Africa, Quenum’s work is composed of an eclectic mix of recycled objets trouvés – that elevates the pieces into poignant, mysterious and whimsical ‘portraits’ of individuals or types observed in his local environment. These ‘portraits’ serve as a lens through which we view Africa.
The dolls that Quenum employs as models and part-time actors on his stages are doubly-recycled, in that they have already served as hand-me down props, expressing the imaginative outpourings of generations of European children before having been repackaged and sent off to Africa in overseas aid parcels. The transformations imposed by that harsher environment – the loss, over time and with constant use, of eyes, of limbs and hair – are still incapable of entirely exhausting these puppets of their capacities for speech. In Quenum’s artful assemblages the disparate parts come together to assume a narrative gift of tongues.
The sculptor’s magical ability is in knowing how to conjure up their tales. To engage the faculties of the imagination by transporting the viewer into an alternate reality that transcends space and time. So too, with the types of wooden objects he uses: mortars, ritual drums or pilings that once supported entire houses in the marshy lagoons surrounding Porto-Novo. They contain whole hidden histories of inherited stories – impregnated in the wood – whose roughened surfaces bespeak the lives of other peoples, other worlds and other experiences.
Gérard Quenum was born in the coastal town of Porto Novo, Benin in 1971. Quenum stands out as one of the more original creators of a distinct sculptural style using urban detritus. His works can be found in major public collections including the British Museum, National Museums of Scotland and the Cantor Arts Center atStanford University, California. In July 2012, Quenum’s work will also be exhibited at the National Football Museum in Manchester as part of its inaugural exhibition entitled Moving Into Space.
This exhibition has woken me up. Africans killing africans. Babies being burnt in their homes. Along the coastline of Benin is prime property and it's where the fishermen live and work but as development comes to Benin so these fishermen, women and children are being smoked out, burnt in their beds...I remember seeing such a sight near the Piscine in Cotonou. The smell of burning homes and seeing the shapes of beds black with smoke and even the odd image of a skeleton, burnt to a crisp stuck to a bed frame, as they were unable to escape the fires. This work is more than your elephant dung gimmick or African textile cloth...this is far more. These works are being bought up by those that know nothing about Africa and thinking how exotic.....but fuck if only they knew...what the Africans know...it is the very Institutions that are buying up these works who are hand in glove with those still murdering Africa..burning them whilst they sleep...taking all they can whilst still being allowed to bully the innocent. This work reflects South Africa as much as West Africa..the torture of Africa continues..
This work is made to be exotic. For the morons that know nothing about the evil men can do. These works are aesthetically pleasing and humorous but the last laugh will certainly bethat of the Africans...this is more than just art...these works are becoming the centre points in Cultural Establishments throughout Britain and moving over to Chicago and elsewhere to fools that know no better...I see the Voodou is being embraced and those that have these works are in for a fun ride...The Africans should never be underestimated and taken for fools..this work hits so hard at the establishment is it wonderful to see it making such headway inside the world of art...A world that knows nothing of Africa, humanity, horror, art, killing, evil, misery and pain....yet is propped up by these elements of humankind. This is art with a real African kick. Fuck be with you...for you will feel and smell Africa in the rooms of the establishment that chooses to turn blind eyes to such ugliness. The establishment are stepping on a landmine. This is very powerful work indeed. Have this artist's work in your Orangery if you must...you fucking fools!
This work doesn't quite go far enough. We need to dig up the dead babies of West Africa and display their charcoaled skeletons in National Museums across the world..This is real..this is not a gimmick...these plastic baby heads were found in homes burnt to the ground by greedy property developers. This work is powerful.....bring out your dead!
South Africa...put your miners skulls on poles as the British & American Establishments are buying up African Art Today! I make no apologizes for my Anti-Social Networking. Innocent lives are being lost in the name of greed. Throughout Africa the working classes are unprotected - the vulnerable are invisible. The World Media is out of focus. BRING US THE HEAD OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AND PUT IT IN THE MoMA in NYC.