Monday, February 2, 2009

Opening night!

Believe it or not, the exhibition opens tonight. I have been gone since Wednesday, due to a death in my family. It’s a bit of a surreal transition coming back at this celebratory moment.

While I have been away, António’s artworks have been re-hung, including “On Taking the Pill” which we retrieved from a paper conservator at the very last moment. This work of art is 40 years old and shows the marks of its journeys through time. The entry wall to the exhibition also was completed during my absence. Now, it bears the profiles of each artist – Aimé and António chose a rich sienna color for their silhouettes, and above this, quotes by both artists, each speaking about the work of the other.

The gallery is also clean now. The work carts and drop cloths have been removed. The 3 ficus trees António included in his installation, “Allegory of Construction I” shed leaves, but these have even been removed. When I was standing next to the trees, Aimé walked over to me to say that he loved seeing the trees, his solid figure “Nude” and “Congo, Shadow of a Shadow” all in a row. Each was made of wood – trees, a solid figure, and the matchsticks. It was an unexpected, and interesting, dialogue of form and material to emerge from the exhibition.

Aime also had a busy weekend. He made a whirlwind trip to New York to install artworks at the Skoto Gallery in Chelsea, where he has an exhibition opening on February 12. I’ve tried to get him to go to the hotel and rest a little before the festivities tonight but he insists he thrives on adrenaline. António’s weekend was a little more restful. He was able to get to some exhibitions over the weekend, and has been raving about “Strange Bodies” over at the Hirshhorn.

I have to say that I am excited about the opening tonight, the press tomorrow, and working with museum docents (volunteers who give informed tours to the public) on Wednesday, but I am also feeling sad that the artists will be leaving us soon! I’ve been joking that they will have to join the staff, as we have all grown so accustomed to having them around.

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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."