Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A miracle?

I arrived this morning to a flurry of emails: the first saying Aimé got my message and would call me as soon as he had called the Embassy at 7am; the next saying “all was shit” (C'est de la merde, je ne comprends rien…)and he didn’t understand what the problem was; and then “Okay. I have my passport and I am leaving to catch the plane!” To be honest, I don’t know what to think. We have called the airlines and confirmed that one Aimé Mpane Enkobo has checked in for the flight, so I suppose some kind of miracle has happened. No one is answering at Aime's home or his cell... I just can’t imagine how he got his passport from the Embassy and managed to pack and get to the airport by 10am. I guess I will find out when I get to the airport this afternoon.

Meanwhile, I hope that António will start getting some art on the wall. I know that he is anxious to see something happen. Yesterday was really focused on explaining his ideas to the designer, figuring out how to make it happen, and then doing the prep work. The goal is to have one of his two new site-specific installations – a three-dimensional work over top a round space that used to be a fountain at the base of the museum’s grand stairway – finished by Friday so that it will be on view by the time the crowds arrive for the Inauguration. Right now, all that is there is some brown butcher paper to keep the pedestal clean, and a tower of plywood that António is working on as a central element of the sculpture.

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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."