Monday, September 13, 2010

'Art of Africa: Objects from the Collection of Warren Robbins' at Keene State College

From carved serving bowls to ceremonial masks, art is interwoven into the African way of life, as shown in an exhibit set to run from Friday, Sept. 3, through Sunday, Oct. 31, at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College.

“‘Art of Africa: Objects from the Collection of Warren Robbins’ depicts how life and art come together in African culture,” curators said. “The exhibit presents more than 60 objects, including sculpture, textiles, beaded clothing and jewelry, which broadly represent the creativity and diversity of artistic expression of nearly 30 cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. Accompanied by a video on African masks and dance, the exhibition illustrates the broader cultural context in which these art forms were created and used.”

Robbins was founding director of the National Museum of African Art, now a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. He discovered African art while serving in the American Diplomatic Service in Germany and Austria from 1950 to 1960. Robbins visited an African art dealer’s shop near Hamburg, where the African objects immediately captured his interest and imagination. He returned to the United States with 32 objects, the beginnings of a collection that later grew to include 5,000 pieces. Robbins opened the Museum of African Art on Capitol Hill, with the hope it would help “foster a deeper understanding of African culture, its history, its values, its creative tradition,” and its relevance to lives of contemporary Americans.

Originally collected by European explorers and ethnologists as academic specimens or curios, African sculpture had, by the end of the 19th century, begun to accumulate in European natural history museums and with dealers in antiques and the “exotic” arts.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, a handful of European artists in France and Germany were intrigued by the unique forms and styles of African art and began to draw creative inspiration from them,” curators said. “The aesthetic significance of African art became highly appreciated and respected in Europe and served as a catalyst for the artistic revolution that ushered in modern art around the world.”

“Art of Africa” is from the collection of the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communication and organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

The Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery’s hours are Sundays through Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. It will be closed Monday, Sept. 6. There is no admission fee. The gallery is located on Wyman Way on the Keene State campus. For more information, call 358-2720 or visit
Source: New Hampshire Union Leader, Keene State College

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