Archive for the 'African Art' Category

30-Minute Dash: Eric Zeidler

Because we offer free general admission, visitors often pop in for a few minutes when they are in the Dallas Arts District. Our Visitor Services team is frequently asked this question: “What would you recommend seeing if you only had thirty minutes to visit the Museum?” We thought it would be fun to pose this tough question to DMA staffers from different departments to see what they consider to be among the highlights. First up is Eric Zeidler, our Publications Manager:

If a visitor had thirty minutes and accepted me as a guide, I would take them to many galleries to highlight multiple works in the collection, starting with the African galleries on Level 3.


My favorite stops include the Fang reliquary guardian figure. It is so riveting and perfectly carved, I can never get my fill of looking at it. Another work to visit is the Songye female power figure with her sheen (she exudes the oil with which she has been anointed down through the years) and that unnerving grin. I can well imagine her exerting a beneficent or malefic power, depending on the inner qualities of those who come into contact with her. Last stop in this gallery would have to be the Djennenke/Soninke figure, with her protuberant eyes and spare, almost angular, elegance.


Continuing our tour on Level 3 in the Arts of Asia gallery includes time to take in the serene Buddha Muchalinda. I love his canopy of naga heads and the fascinating expressiveness of his lips. The Vajrabhairava, with its horns and fangs and union of ecstatic abandon with higher truth, is always a must see, as is the sensuously provocative celestial female with that scorpion on her thigh. And finally we would visit the Vishnu as Varaha, with its diagonal lines and the redoubtable tusks and snout.


We would then dash downstairs to the European galleries on Level 2 to look at a large selection of some of my favorite works, starting with Paul Signac’s neoimpressionist masterpiece Comblat-le-Château, the Meadow (Le Pré), Opus 161. We would then continue on to Paul Sérusier’s Celtic Tale, which partly reminds me of Paul Gauguin but also has symbolist elements reminiscent of Javanese-Dutch artist Jan Toorop, with whom (for me) its imagery has luminous affinities. Next would be Piet Mondrian’s Farm Near Duivendrecht, in the Evening, with its low light, reminds me of Dahl’s Frederiksborg Castle, on view around the corner (it makes me wish that we could acquire some Atkinson Grimshaw canvases), and a quick look at Hans Hofmann’s expressive masterpiece Untitled (Yellow Table on Green).


Going down the other side of the European galleries, I would point out the nice little Still-life with Fruit by Emilie Preyer; Sir Joshua Reynolds’ commanding Portrait of Miss Mary Pelham (she has such a penetrating stare, which for me suggests a certain formidable willfulness); the gorgeous still-life Basket of Flowers by Beert the Elder, with its petals lying strewn on a tabletop; and my beloved College of Animals by Cornelis Saftleven. I think this work, beyond its allegorical subtleties and its charm for all those who love animals, is a beautifully painted canvas, and I love studying its various striking details.


I would also take a quick trip to the Level 4 to see the Dust Bowl and other Texas paintings, which show that beauty can be found amidst stark desolation, and the Navajo eye-dazzler blanket, which is a pleasure to gaze upon. We would end our whirlwind tour with the fascinating little painting by Roberto Montenegro, The Shell, one of my favorite works in the entire collection.

Follow Uncrated to catch the next DMA Dash and more behind-the-scenes scoops. Visit our collection online anytime here.

 Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar, Exhibitions at the DMA.

Fall Transition

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Transition in the Center for Creative Connections is always a bittersweet time. While we’re excited by the infusion of new art in our gallery because it brings new experiences for our visitors, this week we had to say good-bye to some favorites:  The Visitors by Jacob Lawrence, Frank Smith watering his horse, Cross-B Ranch, Crosby County, Texas by Erwin Smith, and Soul Three by Romare Bearden. Now we’re welcoming Ram Mask with Feather Cape by the Kom people in Cameroon, two films by Isa Genzken, and The Mother Load Project, an interactive installation by local artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio. Here’s a little more about our newest installations:

Helmet mask with feather costume, Kom peoples, North West Province, Cameroon, Africa, Early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

Helmet mask with feather costume, Cameroon, North West Province, Kom peoples, early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

This mask depicts a ram, an animal that is sacrificed in religious rituals. While the face of the animal is carved naturalistically, the horns are designed as two stylized spherical knobs composed of concentric rings. When the mask is worn, it fits snugly on top of the dancer’s head and the dancer’s face is concealed under a fitted hood. The dancer also wears a costume of chicken feathers. masks_of_mbuoshu_book_scan_descreenWhile we are interested in visitors being able to explore the sensory elements of this piece, including the texture of the materials, the weight of the mask, the sounds of a masquerade, and the sight of the feathers in motion, this month we will focus activities in the C3 on mask making. If you were to create a mask symbolic of yourself or an event in your life, what animal would you choose as a symbol, and why?

Additional works from our African collection have recently been installed in the African Galleries on Level 3, including the new acquisition of a sword ornament in the form of a spider.

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In conjunction with the current exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective, on view through January 4, 2015, the Center for Creative Connections is showing two films by Genzken in the C3 Theater. On weekdays you can see Chicago Drive, a 16mm film made in 1992 while Genzken was in Chicago preparing for her Renaissance Society exhibition. It reveals her fascination with local architecture, both the famous and the mundane, and also includes intermittent blues music on the soundtrack. On the weekends, My Grandparents in the Bavarian Forest will be on view. This 63-minute film has English subtitles and is a personal account of Genzken’s grandparents’ home in southern Germany. Through the recording of seemingly banal conversations and her grandparents’ quotidian rituals, Genzken draws a moving portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, and the difficulty of coming to terms with the survivors of the World War II generation.

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This week artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio have been on hand in the Center for Creative Connections installing The Mother Load project, an interactive work that hopes to start a dialogue with visitors about the balance of nurturing in one’s life. The collaborative project began as a way to engage with women who lead the creative life of an artist while also being a mother. Through the project, Robertson and Macellaio are collecting fingerprints from artists and their children, recording experiences through written word and audio interviews, and documenting the ongoing project through their interactive website (themotherload.org). In the interactive component of the installation, visitors are asked to respond to this question: “In your life right now, what are you nurturing, and why?” Look for an upcoming post where we interview Robertson and Macellaio about The Mother Load.

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Art + Science = Whole Brain Fun

Remember when it was all the rage to call each other left- or right-brain dominant? While these references are still popularly used today, skepticism is growing among scientists as they learn more about the brain.

Strengths in logical, analytical, and verbal thinking have been associated with the left side of the brain, and creative and intuitive thinking have been associated with the right side. Scientific and mathematical types may be labeled “left-brainers,” while artists are considered “right-brainers.”

The reality is that there’s a bit more crisscross throughout the cranial wires. Both sides of our brains may actually tackle the same problem or idea, but each may approach a solution differently. Bottom line: Te brain aims to work efficiently and this means that most of the time the whole brain is working together. How is the health of your whole brain?

Join us for a day that engages and challenges the whole brain! On Saturday, April 12, the worlds of art and science deliberately cross over and mash up at the DMA’s first Art + Science Festival, held in partnership with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Here are a few highlights to stimulate your neurons:

  • Stretch your mind during various 20-minute gallery talks with experts. Why might a curator use a CAT scan to learn more about an African sculpture? What can a facial recognition scientist reveal about a portrait?

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Nkisi_1996'184'FA

  • Inspect art materials and the natural world up-close using DIY digital microscopes with the DMA/Perot Teen Advisory Council.
  • Sit in the Perot’s Portable Universe (only the coolest movable planetarium in town) for one of two featured presentations, The Sky at Night and The Search for Water. After the Portable Universe, marvel at the connections your brain makes as you gaze upon masterworks in two DMA exhibitions. Encounter the realm of the stars in Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, which includes a collection of astrolabes (early astronomical computers), a celestial globe, and an astrological album. Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series takes an in-depth look at Hogue’s powerful images confronting the tragedies and environmental issues of the Dust Bowl era.

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  • Practice your mind-hand-eye coordination by making some art. Explore lines, shapes, and patterns through the creation of a string art installation with artist Amy Adelman.

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All of these experiences and more await you for FREE at the DMA’s Art + Science Festival on Saturday, April 12. Come for a visit and challenge your whole brain! All ages are invited.

Nicole Stutzman Forbes is Chair of Learning Initiatives and Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education at the DMA.

Images:
George W. Bellows, Emma in a Purple Dress, 1920-1923, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase; Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi), late 19th-early 20th century, wood, iron, raffia, ceramic, pigment, kaolin, red camwood, resin, dirt, leaves, animal skin, and cowrie shell, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the McDermott Foundation; Alexandre Hogue, Drouth-Stricken Area, 1934, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, (c) Olivia Hogue Marino & Amalia Hogue

Picasso and African Art

Our Picasso masterwork Bust is normally considered in the context of early 20th-century modernism. Its home is in the European galleries alongside the works of Picasso’s cohorts like Matisse, Braque, and Léger; however, a recent installation in our European Galleries offers up a new reading of the painting—that it has footings not only in European modernism but also in African art.

Picasso is known to have been captivated by African art. He frequented the Trocadéro, Paris’s famed ethnographic museum, to study its holdings. He was also an avid collector of African objects and amassed over one hundred statuettes, textiles, and masks, all of which he stored in his studio.

Picasso in his studio at the Bateau-Lavoir, Paris, 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris,
Photo Credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Although these so-called “primitive arts” held little monetary value—most were seen as mere trinkets and lined the shelves of curio shops, flea markets, and bistro tablescapes—their alien forms and dramatic abstractions were invaluable inspirations for Picasso. He carefully studied African works, mimicked them, and even openly copied them. He found them to be complex, conceptually sophisticated, and emotionally charged because their abstractions expressed the “unseen” and “unuterrable” in visual and quantifiable terms. Throughout his career, Picasso struggled with trying to represent the unknown or unrepresentable, and African abstract forms gave him a clear visual language to express what he couldn’t before.

In the case of our painting Bust, he appears to have lifted the entire compositional makeup of a kifwebe mask and translated it into a two-dimensional painted form:

Pablo Picasso, “Bust,” 1907-08, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan, Loula D. Lasker, Ruth and Nathan Cummings Art Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Marcus, Sarah Dorsey Hudson, Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, Henry Jacobus and an anonymous donor, by exchange, 1987.399.FA, © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye or Luba Peoples, Helmet mask (“kifwebe”) and costume, late 19th to early 20th century, wood, paint, fiber, cane, and gut, Dallas Museum of Art, The Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, gift of the McDermott Foundation in honor of Eugene McDermott, 1974.Sc.42

The stylistic resonances between the two works are truly striking. Both have the same facial configuration—a convex forehead contrasted by a concave facial plane—and the same facial features, from the almond-shaped downcast eyes, to the broad band bisecting the foreheads, to the fine-lined surface relief.

Through painting a female subject in the likeness of an abstract kifwebe mask, Picasso saw himself as able to visually articulate the invisible aspects of her nature—a feat not possible through a mere depiction of a human form. Moreover, he saw this abstract representation as a “real” representation of a person; for him, reality was something beyond our eyes, so representing someone’s internalized and invisible nature meant he was representing who someone really is. Through abstraction, Picasso was able to make the female figure’s spirit not only visible but real, living, and tangible; through African art, Picasso was able to eclipse old modes of representation and was, in his words, “freed.”


Andrew Sears is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.


Seldom Scene: Installing a Souvenir Tusk

This past weekend, Souvenir: A 19th-Century Carved Tusk from the Loango Coast of Africa opened in the Museum’s Concourse. Below are a few shots of the installation process.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, DMA Marketing Assistant

Remaking the Arts of Africa Gallery

My name is Edleeca Thompson and I am the curatorial research assistant for the Arts of Africa Reinstallation Project, sponsored by the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research. The research for the reinstallation project involves photographing gallery spaces and observing the use of technology and interactive media, as well as visitor responses, in order to ascertain the “best practices” in exhibition design for African art. I am also collecting information on educational programs, activities, and events that support a more innovative approach to the representation and interpretation of African art. This information will be used for the upcoming reinstallation of the DMA’s Arts of Africa gallery in the fall of 2013.

Since June 2011, Roslyn Walker, Senior Curator and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art, and I have visited twenty museums (together or separately) in the United States and Europe for this project. For me, the most impressive displays are at the Louvre (Paris), the Musée Rietberg (Zürich), the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (Cologne), and the Museum Aan de Stroom (Antwerp).

Musée du Louvre, Porte des Lions, Paris, France

In Paris we toured the Pavillon des Sessions, where African art has been presented at the Louvre since 2000. The first picture shows the cool and serenely elegant African gallery at the Louvre. Although the Louvre is most known for its vast collection of masterpieces of Western art, the arts of Africa and Oceania have become increasingly popular with the general public. In response to public demand for more information on the objects, the museum added more labels and portable laminated information cards that visitors can take with them as they tour the galleries.

Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland

The Rietberg Museum also follows the tendency toward cool elegance, but with more color contrast in their restrained, yet intimately formal, spaces.

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, Germany

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum carries spatial intimacy even further in an exhibit that explores the theme of death and the afterlife. The serene, contemplative environment, with its white walls, cushy flooring, featherlike ceiling, and soft, ambient music, evokes otherworldly experiences of the afterlife. The visitor approaches the gallery in stages before entering a large, veiled space. In order to view some of the objects, it is necessary to part the veil in front of the display case.

Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium

The Museum Aan de Stroom, which houses the ethnographic, maritime, folklife, and Antwerp history collections, by far exceeded all expectations regarding the use of technology. Here, the visitor is surrounded by multimedia devices.

Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois

The Art Institute of Chicago’s newly reinstalled gallery features a number of sculptures displayed in the round. The gallery also incorporates videos of ritual performances and still photographs of artists at work, as well as a historical timeline that parallels the cultural developments of both Europe and Africa.

Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

The African collection at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, was reinstalled in 2012 and includes objects ranging from pre-dynastic Egypt to the mid-20th century. Themes of body adornment, economics, and the afterlife are addressed through time and space.

All in all, being given this opportunity to travel and work with Dr. Walker has been a total blast! I’m excited for the DMA in anticipation of making the Arts of Africa exhibit more appealing and engaging for visitors for years to come.

Edleeca Thompson is Curatorial Research Assistant at the DMA.

Seldom Scene: A Tip of the Hat

African Headwear: Beyond Fashion opened yesterday and will be on view through January 1, 2012. The exhibition celebrates the artistry of African decorative design and initiates us into the world of fashion a few months before we host Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Below are a few images showing the preparation that went into creating the African Headwear exhibition.


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