Wednesday, July 28, 2010

William Kentridge, the South African artist drawing apartheid

One of South Africa's best-known artists, William Kentridge makes unsettling work about apartheid -- and he is now making a name for himself internationally.

Kentridge's art, which has chronicled South Africa's shift from an apartheid to a post-apartheid society, evokes the tensions and memories of the former regime and reflects the inequalities of modern life.

His work is inspired by a love-hate relationship with the gritty realism of his home city Johannesburg, South Africa's commercial capital.

His body of work defines a generation and, as such, is some of the most sought after and expensive South African art, collected by major institutions around the world.

His work is multidisciplinary, and includes films and drawings, puppet shows and theatre. He has been shown at The Louvre in Paris, and recently finished directing an opera for New York's Metropolitan Opera.

"The Nose," by Russian composer Shoshtakovich was performed to much acclaim earlier this year and showcased Kentridge's knack of incorporating sculptural an filmic elements into stage direction.

His personal and social commentary on South Africa's problems can make for uncomfortable viewing, but, for Kentridge, it's crucial.

"For that not to be in the work would be a surprise or an avoidance, or a pretense that it's not there," he told CNN.

Many of Kentridge's pieces portray the plight of the powerless and oppressed in South Africa. A recurring character in his work is Soho Eckstein, a fat cat South African property tycoon, who he refers to as his "alter-ego," and downtrodden black workers turn up again and again.

Kentridge's style is also distinctive: His stark, bold charcoal drawings are characterized by frenetic bold black strokes.

He also transforms many of his drawings into short animated films, using an idiosyncratic technique known as "stop-action animation."

He will draw, erase and rework the same piece many times. Before he erases each version, he photographs it. Each photograph becomes a scene in the animated short film.

He says his art is a constant work in progress and he rarely knows what the finished product will be. "You gradually arrive at the image, rather than know in advance and simply put it down," Kentridge said.

Born to a prominent Jewish family of lawyers in South Africa, 54-year-old Kentridge studied political science and African studies before training under the renowned mime artist, Jacques Lecoq in Paris in the 1970s.

He displayed his feelings about the two cities wryly in the title of his first animated film, "Johannesburg -- Second Greatest City After Paris."

"This is where I've lived for 55 years," he said, explaining how the city inspires him. "[It] is a city that deconstructs itself the whole time, it's busy erasing itself the way you erase a drawing."

He admits to wondering why he has decided to make the city home.

"There's certain sections of the city you drive down and think, why on earth do I choose to spend my days in this part of the world," he said.

"And there are other days when you see extraordinary things and you think, this is remarkable."

By: Robyn Curnow

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection

On Display: September 4, 2010 - December 5, 2010

An exhibition of spectacular jewelry and historic photographs from Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia, Desert Jewels presents never-before-exhibited pieces of stunning North African jewelry and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photographs by some of the period’s most prominent photographers.

Collected over three decades by Xavier Guerrand-Hermès,Desert Jewels illuminates the diversity and beauty of traditional North African jewelry design. Ornate necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings show the inventive compositions and dazzling creations of North African jewelry designers and silver workers. Crafted from combinations of silver, coral, amber, coins, and semiprecious stones, the exquisite collection includes wedding necklaces, hair ornaments, bracelets, earrings, and fibula used to keep veils in place. The jewelry shows both the common threads that run through North African societies and local variations in materials and motifs.

North African jewelry came to the attention of Western collectors in the nineteenth century, when North Africa’s historic monuments and archaeological sites were being explored, visited, and, in some cases, pillaged. The most important photographers of the day, including the Scotsman George Washington Wilson, the Neurdine brothers from France, and the Turkish photographer Pascal Sabah, visited the region and photographed landscapes, architecture, markets, and people adorned in their jewels.

Organizer - Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York

Sponsors - This exhibition is supported, in part, by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Curator - Dilys Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles

Location - Spain Gallery, Perelman Building

Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Monday, July 5, 2010

Birmingham Museum of Art exhibit links African-American, African ancestry and tradition

Pattern, Costume And Ornament In African And African-American Art. The Birmingham Museum of Art. Through Sept. 12.

Described as “connecting cultural ancestry, tradition, community and personal identity,” this small, powerful exhibition is a tantalizing introduction to African and African-American art.

Jeff Donaldson’s portrait of himself and family is done in collage. It explodes from a center pattern like a small sun. The artist is seated and flanked by other members of his family. There is a medieval quality to this beautifully balanced composition, a feeling of power and permanence that is highly tactile and vibrant.

Clotaire Bazile’s “Vodou Flag” is a symmetric composition that uses stitched satin fabric, sequins and glass beads that merge African historical imagery with symbols from foreign influences to produce a delightful wall hanging. Odili Donald Odeta’s “Night Door” is a large abstract work covered with slab-like interlocking geometric figures. Nick Cave’s “Sound Suit” is a body covering that harkens back to witch doctor regalia. A fine black mesh fabric covers a mannequin. White crotchet doilies and bright buttons drip from the figure like strings of jewels.

A photograph of a woman in her room is a mute, expressive statement about life during apartheid in South Africa. Poverty and pride are expressed in this woman’s driving will to bring color and decoration into her life.

“Mining the Museum” offers a photographic selection from the Maryland Historical Society. The collection of 20 photographs of 19th century homemade dolls is aching, yet charming. It speaks volumes about making do with virtually nothing. Lucy Marie Mingo’s “Pine Burr Quilt” is a marvel of stitchery. Carrie Mae Weems’ self-portrait photographs are a calm indictment of subtle racism. Weems wears a patchwork dress that is both handsome and revelatory, showing pride and ingenuity about the world in which she lives.

This eclectic selection of works increases this gallery’s growing reputation for quality and finely-honed sense of purpose.

“Exploding Hummer” is an astonishing work by Srdjan Loncar that seems inspired by today’s headlines. Out of a “kiddy kar” model of a black Hummer a gigantic plume of oily reddish-golden, billowing substance rises to become a heavy, morbidly dense black cloud of smoke. The piece, created over a year ago, appears as if it were done yesterday.

Kelli Thompson’s “Blake on Fur” is a vibrant photo of a young girl with a dangerous sunburn. Monica Zeringue draws young girls in a dream-like state while Andrew Au creates robotic insects floating in space. Matt Posey uses pixel technology to create a skull-like image while Jennifer Purdum’s silk screen on wood images recall the medieval meanderings of Hieronymus Bosch.

By: James R. Nelson

Sunday, July 4, 2010

California African American Museum Exhibition of Leading Los Angeles Artists

The contemporary art exhibition organized by the California African American Museum (CAAM), which opened March 22, was scheduled to close in mid-June, but will remain on display through Friday, July 30, announced Woody Schofield, CAAM’s deputy director. “This exhibition has proven extremely popular and we are delighted to be able to extend the time that these works will be on view in this excellent downtown space,” he said.

The exhibition presents outstanding work by leading California artists who are members of the California Artist Coalition of Los Angeles. The art is on display at the 7+FIG Art Space gallery in the 7+FIG retail center middle level at Ernst & Young Plaza, 735 S. Figueroa Street. The showcase is open from 12 noon to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, as well as on the Thursday LA Downtown Art Walk evenings during the run of the show, May 13, June 10 and July 8. During the Art Walk, the gallery will be open from noon to 9:00 pm and artists will be on hand to welcome guests. Guests can also enjoy free beer, wine and snacks from 5pm to 9pm on the Art Walk evenings.

More than 20 member artists of the California Artist Coalition of Los Angeles have work on display in the 7+FIG Art Space, which is available through courtesy of arts>Brookfield Properties. This exhibition is part of a unique program created by Brookfield Properties to sponsor art in the unique public spaces of Brookfield Properties’ downtown Los Angeles buildings and to provide a venue that supports local, LA-based artists and arts organizations. The artworks on display include paintings, sculpture, photographs and assemblage. Among the nationally known CACLA artists are Artist Lane, John Outterbridge and Richard Mayhew.

There will be special 7+FIG Kid’s Club programs on several upcoming Saturdays, May 22, June 26 and July 24 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm in the 7+FIG Art Space, where youngsters can produce their own works by stretching their creative muscles under the helpful eye of artist Teresa Tolliver.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Robert Shapazian dies at 67; founding director of Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills

Robert Shapazian, who ran the Gagosian Gallery for a decade, is seen on a trip to Mali. Since traveling the world alone at 20, he continued to globe-trot and liked to visit African tribes.

Robert Shapazian, a scholarly art dealer who started importing art at age 13 and went on to become the founding director of the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, has died. He was 67.

Shapazian died of lung cancer Saturday at his Los Angeles home, said Robert Dean, a friend.

"Robert just kind of sailed under the radar a bit," said Dean, who also was a colleague at the Gagosian. "He's more like a poet's poet, if the poets were collectors. He both influenced and inspired a lot of people."

When leading contemporary art dealer Larry Gagosian hired him in 1995 to oversee the launch of a West Coast outpost, he praised Shapazian's knowledge of photography, 1990s art, and artists Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, The Times reported at the time.

Under Shapazian's direction, Gagosian shows were "always provocative," adding "a 'big time' dimension to the local scene," online magazine Artnet said in 2004. The magazine gave as an example the gallery's survey of black-and-white Warhol paintings derived from advertising.

Shapazian ran the blue-chip venue for a decade, advising collectors to do as he did: Don't invest for monetary gain but follow "ideas and feeling," he said in a 2008 interview.

Business tycoon Eli Broad was one of Shapazian's primary clients, Dean said.

From 1986 until its closing in 1994, Shapazian was director of the Venice-based Lapis Press, founded by artist Sam Francis to publish fanciful, limited-edition artists' books.

Many titles were experimental, resulting in "books with an unusual degree of presence," Shapazian told The Times in 1993.

The texts were often obscure, evocatively illustrated and of the highest quality while aiming to amuse.

An example of Shapazian's playfulness was evident in philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard's study of Duchamp. The Lapis release was covered in green velour, the same material Duchamp used for his 1934 work "The Green Box."

Robert Michael Shapazian was born in 1942 in Fresno to Ara and Margaret Shapazian.

Since he liked art, he started buying antique objects from Thailand when he was 13. He sold some of them to galleries and museums while starting his own collection, which grew to include Asian art, 18th century French furniture and illustrated Russian books.

After earning a bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley in 1964, Shapazian studied English literature at Harvard University, earning a master's in 1965 and a doctorate in 1970. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on pastoral poetry and painting in the Renaissance.

He had worked in his family's agricultural business in Fresno and built a collection of experimental photography that critics considered extraordinary.

In recent years, Shapazian taught writing and art to at-risk youths, friends said.

Since traveling the world alone at 20, he continued to globe-trot and liked to visit "very traditional tribes in distant places in Africa," he once said.

His contribution to the arts and literature had been recognized by the French government, which named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Shapazian is survived by a sister.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tribal Art: A Paris Exhibition That Wears Many Hats

Items from the “Voyage in My Head” exhibition at Maison Rouge in Paris. From left: a warrior’s headdress from Papua-New Guinea, and a bird headdress from Cameroon.

For true hat lovers, the hottest place in June, most years, is Ladies’ Day at Ascot, London’s high society horse racing venue, when the spectators’ area is awash in hats of every color, shape and description. This year, however, Ascot comes second to the Maison Rouge Museum in Paris.

Through Sept. 26, the museum, a stone’s throw from the Bastille Opera House, is showing “Voyage Dans Ma Tête” (“Voyage in My Head”), an extraordinary exhibition of ethnic and tribal head-wear collected by the museum’s founder and president, Antoine de Galbert.

Over the past 15 years Mr. de Galbert has scoured the world, searching out unique and rare examples of the tribal hatter’s skills. The result is more than 400 decorative pieces, assembled from feathers, bones, beads, pearls, crocodile scales, monkey skulls and human hair, all collected from the four corners of the globe.

“My first purchase was a Papuan headdress of Cassowary feathers,” Mr. de Galbert said recently. “It was too small to be worn by a human, it belonged to a statue.” That piece is in the show, alongside tribal tiaras, crowns, hoods and helmets from Amazonia to India by way of Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands: headgear for every ritual, from religion to seduction to war.

Mr. de Galbert created the Maison Rouge in 2004, transforming a 27,000-square-foot former industrial space into a hyper-modern, minimalist set of exhibition rooms surrounding an art library and cafe. The style is cutting-edge contemporary, with a penchant for shows, like this one, that escape from the glass vitrine into the domain of installation art.

La Maison Rouge, 10 Boulevard de la Bastille; (33-1) 40-01-08-81; Admission is 7 euros, or $8.64, at $1.23 to the euro.

Source: The NY Times
By: Claudia Barbieri

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The African sculptures mistaken for remains of Atlantis

A hundred years ago when German explorer Leo Frobenius visited West Africa and came across some sculpted bronze heads and terracotta figures, he was sure he had discovered remains of the mythical lost city of Atlantis.

He refused to believe that the sophisticated and ornately carved bronze sculptures were made in Africa.

In his book, Voice of Africa, Frobenius wrote: "Before us stood a head of marvellous beauty, wonderfully cast in antique bronze, true to the life, incrusted with a patina of glorious dark green. This was, in very deed, the Olokun, Atlantic Africa's Poseidon."

"I was moved to silent melancholy at the thought that this assembly of degenerate and feeble-minded posterity should be the legitimate guardians of so much loveliness," he added.

Frobenius was referring to the people who lived in the Kingdom of Ife and whose artists, in fact, created the sculptures over the course of some four centuries. Leading art experts believe they are among the most aesthetically striking and technically sophisticated in the world.

The Ife kingdom was believed to have flourished from the 12th to the 15th centuries in the lush forests of the lower Niger in West Africa in what is today the south western region of Nigeria.
Frobenius' assertions helped reinforce long held assumptions of African art as primitive and inferior to European art.

However, 30 years later, Europeans were forced to revise these previously held assumptions when 18 brass and copper sculptures were discovered in the Ife kingdom. The works were later brought to London, where they were enthusiastically received.

A 1948 article in the Illustrated London News was headlined: "African art worthy to rank with the finest works of Italy and Greece" and "Donatellos of medieval Africa."

As critic Michael Glover notes in the UK's Independent newspaper, "At the same historical moment that Andrea del Verrocchio was doing his wonderfully painstaking, high-Renaissance drawing of a female head, anonymous artisans in Ife were working with brass, bronze, copper and terracotta to produce a series of exquisite heads that are not only the equal of Donatello in technical brilliance, but also just as naturalistic in their refinement. So much for African primitivism."

Now, a worldwide touring exhibition is bringing the show to modern audiences in the first-ever show dedicated to the Ife sculptures.

The exhibition features more than 100 bronze, terracotta and stone sculptures, ranging in date from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries.

Many of these have never been on display outside Nigeria. Most of the works are on loan from the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The sculptures are currently on display at the British Museum in London until 4th July and will move to various states in the United States from September.

According to Neil Macgregor, Director of the British Museum, there was a conscious effort to display the Ife sculptures at the same time as an exhibition of Italian Renaissance drawings at the museum because he wanted to highlight the "relationship between Nigerian culture and the rest of the world."

"We wanted to make the point that nobody, when they learn European art history, studying Italy and Renaissance in the fourteenth, fifteenth centuries, is taught that at exactly the same time in West Africa, artistic production of the same level and the same quality is going on," he said during a talk on Nigeria at the museum.

The sculptures depict human figures from a cross-section of Ife society and provide a fascinating insight into local customs and beliefs of the time.

However, not much is known about the origins of the Ife casts or who they were made for or for what purpose.

Macgregor said: "This is a history that is still very much in the making. And it's not, of course, just the history of Ife. The bronze casting world of West Africa is an astonishingly large and rich one.

"The quality of the objects continues to astound and particularly the objects that have never been seen before," Macgregor continued. "On any view they are a masterpiece, not just of observation but of sculpting and casting."

Source: CNN
BY: Stephanie Busari