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