Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Environment and Object - Recent African Art" exhibition at Skidmore College -- Announcement

Garth Meyer, Untitled (Figure #12), 2010 [All images courtesy Tang Museum]

George Osodi, Blackened Explosion, 2004
This February, responses to urban, natural, and economic environments by contemporary African artists will be on view in a thought-provoking exhibition at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. From appropriated waste materials turned into site-specific installations and sculptures to eerily compelling photographs of ravaged and degraded environments, Environment and Object-Recent African Art, will include works of art that scrutinize man-made environmental disasters, natural resource problems, deforestation, and other ecological issues.  
Sammy Baloji, Untitled 13, 2006   

Other artists in the show take a less directly political approach regarding their environments, using found objects and abandoned junk to create both visually compelling and intellectually challenging art works. Opening February 5, 2011, the exhibition will present the work of Africans, living and working around the globe, including internationally recognized artists Yinka Shonibare, El Anatsui, Viyé Diba, Barthélémy Toguo, and Zwelethu Mthethwa, as well as emerging artists gaining a reputation outside of Africa, such as Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Lara Baladi, and Nnenna Okore.
Viyé Diba, Nous sommes nombreux et nos problemes avec [We Are Numerous and So Are Our Problems], 2008

“Many of the artists on view incorporate found objects into their work, whether to address ecological and economic conditions or simply to reflect the nature of the world they live in” said co-curator Lisa Aronson, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore. “El Anatsui and Nnenna Okore employ materials taken from urban and rural environments to create expressive and provocative wall hangings and sculptures. Other artists in the exhibition work in traditional media like paint and photography to create meditations on natural resource management or industrial pollution. Yet, all decisively reject romanticized perceptions of Africa, while offering a broader view of contemporary Africa and conditions which concern it.”
Georgia Papageorge, Genesis, Crucifixion, Aftermath (from Africa Rifting), 2003
Bright Ugochukwu Eke, a Nigerian artist working frequently in the U.S., often explores humans’ negative impact on the environment. Eke will be an artist-in-residences at the Tang in January, where he will work with four Skidmore studio art majors to create a site-specific installation incorporating plastic water and soda bottles. Known for his elegant architectural works, Eke’s installations are often made through the accumulation of hundreds of identical, discarded objects, in order to focus attention on the “earth-human connection.” Viyé Diba of Senegal, who creates painting, sculpture, and mixed media installations incorporating objects and photographs, will also be an artist-in-residence at the Tang.
Jerry Buhari, Images of Zaria City (Exploring Images of a City), 2005
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Black Gold I, 2006
In addition to artists employing found objects, a number of artists in the exhibition will comment on political and environmental situations on the continent through photographic works. Calling attention to policies that fail to protect the land or its inhabitants, former AP photographer George Osodi captures oil field explosions in Nigeria over the past decade, documenting the appalling destruction of landscapes, livelihoods, and ecosystems caused by the oil industry. Garth Meyer creates luscious silver gelatin prints that belie the savage deforestation in South Africa and across the continent. Barthélémy Toguo also responds to deforestation in his work Stupid African President 2. The work depicts a man balancing a chainsaw on his head, a cheap, portable, easy-to-operate tool which has allowed loggers access to jungle forest tracts previously inaccessible to vehicles or heavy machinery. “Environment and Object extends the Tang’s legacy of interdisciplinary exhibitions that highlight the interconnectedness of our world,” said co-curator John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang Museum. “The exhibition highlights situations that concern all of us, across many fields and in many places. The fact that the artists creating this work are from Africa is significant, too, and underlines both the global nature of their work and the conditions it engages. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Saratoga Springs and the campus community across a variety of disciplines, offering them a new and compelling view of art that grapples with real issues.” Environment and Object opens on February 5 and runs through July 31, 2011. The exhibition is curated by Lisa Aronson, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore, who specializes in African art history, and John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang. The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive catalogue, published in the spring by the Tang and Skidmore, with new essays on a range of topics related to art and the environment that will serve as a valuable resource on the current generation of African contemporary artists. The catalogue will include essays by the curators Aronson and Weber, a new interview with art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University, and essays by political scientist Chris Whann of Empire State College, environmental studies professor Karen Kellogg of Skidmore, and socio-cultural anthropologist Mark Auslander of Brandeis University. The Tang Museum’s website will feature extensive material about Environment and Object as the exhibition unfolds, including slide shows of the works on view, a special interactive feature providing historical background and quotes from the artists, video of public programs and interviews with artists and others, and panoramic views of the exhibition itself. Site visitors are encouraged to check back regularly over the course of the exhibition as new materials are added. "Environment and Object- Recent African Art" is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Tadahisa Kuroda Exhibition Fund, the Virginia Gooch Puzak ‘44 Faculty Curatorial Endowment, Chief Oskar Ibru ‘81 and Chief Mrs. Wanda Swann Ibru ‘79, and Friends of the Tang, with additional support from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Creative Thought Fund at Skidmore. Spring Programs Related to Environment and Object: Saturday, February 5 5:00PM—Dunkerley Dialogue: Artists Viyé Diba, Bright Eke, and Barthélémy Toguo, and art historian/curator Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University, moderated by exhibition co-curators Lisa Aronson and John Weber; 6:00–7:30PM—Reception for Spring Exhibitions Free and open to the public, with refreshments Tuesday, February 8 - 12:00PM—Curator’s Tour:With exhibition curators Lisa Aronson, Skidmore Art History, and John Weber, Tang Dayton Director Tuesday, March 1 - 7:00PM—Dunkerley Dialogue: Artist Lara Baladi Thursday, March 3 - 7:00PM—Film: Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, 2008 With co-director, Lisa Merton, in conjunction with Environment and Object Co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program, Skidmore

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