Monday, January 5, 2015

Finding Bruce

When I entered the National Museum of African Art to see the Conversations exhibition,
the sunlit massive atrium promised a religious experience, cautioning me to pause.
Photographs were not allowed so I pulled out my sketch book and began to observe and record. 
Art by Buce Onobrakpeya, photographed with permission
I was curious how the museum's artworks would "read" next to the artworks owned by Camille and Bill Cosby.  What type of experience would this be?
Divided into six sections, approximately 100 carefully selected pieces of African artworks were exhibited with 62 pieces of African-American artworks owned by the Cosbys.  
Plastograph by Bruce Onobrakpeya
It was in the Power and Politics section that I came across some of the most provocative pieces in the show.  Psychologically probing, with historical & political undertones, they seemed to generate more questions than a glance could answer. 
Original text by Wole Soyinka & D.O. Fagunwa with illustration by Bruce Onobrakpeya
These works included, but not limited to, Senzeni Marasela's Covering SarahWilliam Kentridge's Head,  and Johannes Phokela's Cuts.

Bruce Onobrakpeya's Have you Heard? piece was described as a "deep etching on paper". Technically complex, his bas relief etching of three African women, standing in the moonlit night, seemed to jump off the wall and whisper the secrets of Nigeria to all who stopped in front of it. 

It is with Bruce's magnificently etched labyrinth that I realized it was a good thing that photographs weren't allowed.  First of all,  I would have probably spent too much time taking photos and not really looking.  Secondly, viewing art in person can be a thaumaturgical experience: Artists use color, texture, structure, and shape as a form of communication, offering deeper meaning to observers.

Thirdly, you can engage in all types of conversations with other visitors.  (I met two Togolese women visiting DC, and their perspective of the exhibition was so interesting that we ended up visiting the African Mosaic exhibition on another floor.) 

No comments:

Featured Post

Aesthetics and Technology