Friday, January 16, 2009

Today, both artists are really anxious to get their work underway. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get their badges yesterday, so they will need to return to the Smithsonian Security office this afternoon. Plus, it turns out Aime forgot to pack a pair of work shoes. In his hurry to get to the airport after getting his passport back from the US Embassy in Brussels, he forgot to pack more than his good shoes. So, he will sneak out at some point this afternoon to get something cheap and canvas.

António’s installation, “Allegories of Construction II” is now finished and so we hope to get the lighting set on it today, as well as putting some paper labels in place for the Inaugural weekend. The final labels will be rubbed directly onto the wall – a form of decal – and these labels are not yet in from the printer as we are still about 2 weeks ahead of the opening.

Aimé’s goal is to have one section of his wall painted in by the end of the day, so he is busy taping and getting things set up. After work today, we are heading out for happy hour at a local bar. Hopefully, this will be a chance for local folks interested in African art and artists, as well as just everyone getting to work with these two talents, a chance just to hang out and talk. We won’t be able to stay out too late, however, as we are planning to work Saturday and Sunday. Monday is a holiday (MLK Jr. day) and Tuesday the Inauguration – and we’ve been asked to not come down to the mall at all. Should be an adventure for the artists to see, at least!

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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."