The New York City Museum of Art and Design opened yesterday an exhibit entitled The Global Africa Project that explores from different perspective the impact the African visual culture has had on art, handcrafts and contemporary designs.
This innovative exposition –unprecedented in the world scene of the visual arts- combines arts, handcrafts and design, and it is quite a challenge to the traditional conceptions of African esthetics and identity. The exhibit includes pieces from over a hundred artists of different origin who currently work in Africa, Europe, Asia, the U.S. and the Caribbean. Many of them belong to the new breed of talented artists out of Africa and the rest of the world.
The exhibition will embrace furniture, architecture, fabrics, fashion, jewelry, ceramics and basketry, as well as a select assortment of photographs, paintings, sculptures and installations, a reflection of the integration between African art and design without headlining the traditional distinctions between professional artworks and handcrafts. Thus, the exposition comprises significant territories that stand far beyond the restrictions that shackle the traditional historic and artistic groups, and that includes selective criteria marked by the environment, the geography and the form of artistic expression.
Curator Lowery Stokes and Leslie King-Hammond have culled a vast and assorted group of creators, including artists who try their hands at the fusion of contemporary plastic arts and the use of traditional materials, as well as others whose designs have panned out to be the driving force behind ongoing changes in the local economies. They have also laid out the exhibit on the basis of several thematic clusters that lay bare the contemporary fashion creativeness of designers from the Black Coffee Design Studio in South Africa; installations, sculptures and artifacts that made of materials that arrived in Africa as a result of the cultural exchange, including packing and manufactured objects such as furniture designed by Senegal’s Ousmane M’Baye or the site-specific installation by Nigerian artist Olu Amoda; the contemporariness of traditional practices in ceramics and basketry is seen in pieces by American artist Mary Jackson and South African ceramist Clive Sithole, a busy man who has been traditionally linked to the femme genre. Likewise, there are reflections on the transition of these techniques in the field of the arts and design, in the works of British-Kenyan ceramist Magdalene Odundo and the exquisite work in metals of Ndidi Ekubia, who also lives and works in the UK; on the balance between modernism and the cultural ethos of architectural designs by Mervyn Awon from Barbados and America’s Jack Travis, and in the symbolic allusions seen in furniture and architecture created by Cuba’s Alexander Arrechea; not to mention the collaborations now underway between African traditional creators and design studies.
The exhibition, organized by MAD and the Center for Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, will remain open to the public till May 15, 2011.