Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inuagural madness

I had planned to write a post yesterday, but came into the museum and there was some kind of bizarre power outage that seems to have been localized to my office. I was in the middle of writing when zap both computer and lights went out. It took the electricians awhile to remedy the situation, so I gave up my effort for the day. Both artists remained valiantly at work, however.

Poor António nearly froze to death Friday night when I walked the artists to Fádo’s, a local pub, for happy hour. The last time I walked there it was warm, and hadn’t seemed nearly so far! But, he came to work first thing Saturday morning and got right to work laying out his large wall “fresco” – the installation he is creating in the gallery on the wall opposite Aimé’s. The only glitch came up today, however. After I left the museum yesterday, António grew the installation about 6-8 feet wider than we had previously discussed. So, today, I ran around making sure it wouldn’t be a security issue to have the exposed metal and other elements of his installation so close to the edge of the platform where visitors could touch them. It’s all worked out in the end, and António’s artistic vision will remain uncompromised.

Aime has made a lot of progress with his wall, as well. The first word he painted on it is “dialogue.” I will have to ask him about it, or better yet – you ask him! This blog is meant to be interactive! Please send any kind of questions or comments…

And, for the picture today, rather than sending an update of the artists at work, I’ve decided to upload a scene of what’s going on around us on the mall. People are everywhere, and so are port-a-potties. I believe some 5,000 port-a-johns have been delivered to the mall, although I have no idea how accurate this number is. All I can attest to is that there are a lot.

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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."