Friday, January 23, 2009

Art beyond the walls!

The good news today is that more art is coming into the gallery. While Aimé waits for his plastic table to arrive, he is working on hanging his piece, “Ici on crève.” It is a composition of approximately 50 square panels of painted and carved wood. The artist has made more than 100 of these squares and they have been exhibited in other configurations at other venues internationally, but this is the first time he has made this assemblage. Crèver is a French verb which means simultaneously “to die,” “burst” and “wear out.” To get this idea across, Aimé uses his adze to carve the images, as well as paint them, and often breaks through the surface altogether.

For this installation, Aimé had initially suggested scattering the paintings across the back wall of the gallery, surrounding the door and creating the effect of them “bursting” across this large expanse. Now that he is here, he has decided to position them in the corner, radiating out in two directions. It is going to be quite powerful. We are also working to position a standing figure by Aimé, called simply “Nude.” We’ve had a problem with this piece because, in the past, Aimé has always installed it directly on the ground. We can’t do that here for safety reasons – if a wheelchair backed into it, it could potentially fall over and someone could be hurt (and the artwork could be hurt). And so, we need it to be on a base. How to conceal, or minimize, this base has been an issue. Originally, we proposed putting it on a small, low pedestal painted grey – the color of the floor—with a red edge. Aimé did not like this. And so, now, we are placing it on a metal plate painted a lovely golden bronze. It picks up the honey tones of the wonderfully striated wood. Aimé has proposed that we light the pedestal, instead of the figure.

António is not having such a good day. His foot has been troubling him a bit and so today we debated whether or not to take him to a doctor. He has insisted on working on, but we are all pushing him to take it easier. He has also insisted on carrying on with happy hour tonight. But, I have learned my lesson. We will not wander so far afield but meet at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden tonight and watch the ice-skaters.

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About the Exhibition

Artists in Dialogue: António Ole and Aimé Mpane is the first in a series of exhibitions in which two artists have been invited to create new work in response to one another. Accompanying these site specific artworks are a selection of older and more recent pieces by António Ole of Angola and Aimé Mpane, an artist who divides his time between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Belgium. Even though their works appear together for the first time, Ole and Mpane share close ties to their homelands and a connection to the human and natural environments of their native countries.

Ole has been creating and exhibiting his artwork since he was a teenager, and this selection spans his impressive 40-year career. From the crisp pop art style of his youth to his subtle and evocative assemblages and installations, Ole's work prompts viewers to consider poverty, political hypocrisy, territorialism, violence and decay. At the same time, a deep appreciation for the beauty of cast-off objects and the aesthetics of poverty underlies his works, which are on view in the United States for the first time.

Mpane, a prolific artist who is versatile in painting, prints, sculpture, video and installation, achieved international recognition in 2006. He utilizes his commanding skill with human expressions and the figure to probe the history and present state of the DRC.

This selection of established and new works provides insight into the personal visions of Ole and Mpane and how they communicate with diverse audiences. Their subject matter, use of unlikely materials and ongoing commitment to Africa resonate with one another and encourage dialogue.

About the Curator.

My photo
"I was told to describe myself as a well-dressed hipster and I only wish this were true. Despite my lack of cool, I consider myself lucky to be the coordinating curator at the National Museum of African Art. My interests include both contemporary and classical African art - and to be frank, I disagree with the notion of a great separation between the two - and I have worked in both museums and universities. I've been called an idealist because I believe that through learning about other cultures, ideas, and visions, we learn tolerance for one another - regardless of class, religion, country and the other great divides. But I also just love looking at, learning about, and being with African art and African artists. I like art in general, but it is the diversity, complexity, and richness of the works connected to the African continent that captivate and motivate me. It's the only work I've ever done, and among other great rewards, it has allowed me to travel to and on a couple of occasions live in Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Angola and Senegal."