Thursday, January 22, 2009

The slow pace of progress

Well, it is Thursday and it looks like we will need to come in on Saturday after all. Both artists are hard at work; it’s just that there is a lot to do.

António’s windows are now in place, but he is still busy cutting the corrugated plastic and metal, painting the doors and pacing his colors. Also, the wood shop is still working on cutting some shapes that he would like to integrate into the composition. The windows do look great, however. António decided to keep them dirty so they have a smoky, opaque look to them. It’s nice because one see the light, without be distracted by the light fixtures.

Aimé’s wall is also coming together. Initially, he was troubled by the presence of the white platform in front of the wall. He wanted visitors to be able to walk straight through the open doors, but now he is reconsidering. António is similarly troubled by the platform in front of his wall, though he has said that he will keep his mind open to it as he works. He would prefer it be grey, so that it just look like floor. The problem is, then it would be a tripping hazard. As it is now, it frames the work in progress, and keeps it clear that visitors shouldn’t get close enough to the work to touch it. But, back to Aimé’s platform. We talked about whether or not to remove it, and I had the Installation guys all ready to pull it out, when Aimé decided that he liked seeing the scuff marks left by his feet on the once-pristine, white platform. He liked them patterns enough, in fact, that he stepped on some paint and then shuffled his feet through the doors – to leave traces of how one has, or could, move across this deck to the other side of the wall, to António’s side of the dialogue. The white platform also provides as great contrast to the crumbled bits of wood, plaster, and paint that have fallen as Aimé has carved images of overturned tables and a skull into the surface of the wall. These chips have now become part of the installation and reflect the artist’s ongoing interest in artworks that illustrate or embody the creative process.

So, we will be back tomorrow, and Saturday, as we hurry to have everything finished on Monday. That leaves the artists a little time to themselves before next week, when Aimé and António will be meeting with students from local schools and universities .

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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."