Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Artworks in Dialogue

We are quickly getting the artworks up and in place, but we’ve had a bit of a glitch with António’s. His 6 black and white photographs, the “Untitled” series and the triptych, “Disintegrations” have all been hung but I think a little too low. I would like them all raised 2 inches, so that the base of “Disintegrations” is not obscured by the boat, and so that the photo portraits appear to be closer to standing height. Establishing the height at which to hang an artwork is not a science and people have different views. We’d welcome your feed back as I am quite certain not everyone agrees with me. It’s hard to gage one’s audience – how many children or people in wheelchairs will be visiting? How does an artwork look in relation to the floor? The ceiling? The unfortunate issue today is that the works have already been hung, and I am loathe to add to people’s work by asking them to re-hang the artworks. This dilemma does bring up an issue that is open to input, however, and that is the relationship between artworks.

Up until now, my writing has focused mostly on the actions of the artists, but of course, the designer Alan Knezevich and I have also been around all along. As the curator, I had the most say in what works of art would be included, as well as where they would be placed in the gallery. In terms of the placement, I really have been seeking to create visual dialogues between works of art. I wanted António’s “Untitled” series in a face-off (pun intended) with “Ici on crève.” I also wanted the black and white of the “Untitled” series next to the black and white canvases of “Disintegrations” in a dialogue of forms across media. And, I want to position António’s early pop art influenced work on paper, “On Taking the Pill,” in proximity to Aimé’s “Rail, Massina 3” in which we can see the rich traditions of Congolese popular arts – about which Johannes Fabian, Bogumil Jewsiewicki and others have written so well. So, the dialogues are between the artists, between and amongst their artworks, between genres, between them and me, and hopefully, will include you – audiences around the world.


David said...

Interesting. I think that rehanging a work to get it just right is a necessary part of any exhibition installation. It's impossible to know exactly what the show will look like until it is on the wall. Sight lines are everything!

Anna said...

I thought your attempt to create multiple dialogues was very successful. I accidently went through the exhibition backwards and missed the opening wall with the silhouettes of the two artists talking about each other. I thought it clearly introduced the basis of the show and was quite clever and powerful.

Will this be a series, with other artists brought in for future shows?

Artists in Dialogue said...

Thanks, David. It's a funny thing with hanging an artwork. some museums have rules -- everything at a low height so children can see, or people with diabilities... It's not a science. with this show, however, I was really happy to raise "disintegrations" above the boat. Of course, it all meant raising the heights of the photographs, but in the end, I was happy with this too. Several of the portraits were of tall men, so it seemed more fitting to make them taller from the ground. Keep commenting!

Artists in Dialogue said...

Yeah, we put the entry text at both doors into the exhibition although the silhouettes are only at the "front" entrance. We decided to go with silhouettes at the front because I didn't want photos of the artists to be confused with antonio's photos (which are artworks) or to give one artist's artwork preeminence over the other. both artists were happy and I think (hope) it really has visualized the idea of art, and an exhibition, as a conversation.

Hopefully, this will be the start of a series. I already have ideas about the next two artists I want to bring. The main challenge is funding -- it isn't cheap to bring art works from another continent!

Blog Archive

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."