Museum of Art and Design on view now through May 15, 2011,
Organized by MAD’s Chief Curator Lowery Stokes Sims and Leslie King-Hammond, Founding Director of the Center for Race and Culture at MICA, this exhibition features over 100 artists exhibited on three floors of MAD. This broad ranging exhibition takes as it underlying thesis the richness and diversity of African artists, designers, and craftsman from a range of countries within the continent, African artists and designers working in Europe, Asia, and the United States, as well as established artists inspired by African traditional cultures, motifs, and identities. From fine arts and photography to furnishings, “church lady hats,” and hair designs, this exhibition explores the ways African nations’ distinctive traditional aesthetics have inspired contemporary works, been transformed in diverse geographic contexts, and exemplify the fluidity of African identity within the global context. The exhibition as “project” has allowed for great latitude in the choice of works such as African stools rendered in Japanese lacquer-ware, kimonos inspired by African textiles, and Murano glass as a vehicle to explore the semiotics of blackness. Artists such as Fred Wilson, Yinko Shinobari, Kehinde Wiley, and Tseng Kwong Chi are in mix with artists and designers Black Coffee design studio of South Africa, Serge Mouangue, a Cameroonian designer, and Iké Udé’s photographic works titled Sartorial Anarchy. The breakdown between art, design, and craft as distinct categories of creative production produces some surprise juxtapositions with an overall vitality that matches the curators’ ambitions.
-Rosemary O’Neill, Associate Professor