Two Heads At Once, Two Places In One

Yinka Shonibare MBE, How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies), 2006.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies), 2006.

Nestled between yuppie Park Slope and Crown Heights, a neighborhood with large numbers of both Orthodox Jews and West Africans, the Brooklyn Museum was the setting for the opening of a show that in unique and purposeful ways brought together African and European cultures. Curiously the work also brings cultural clashes that occurred in colonial times into the present. And what better artistic mind for such an interpretation than an English-born African-raised artist living in contemporary London.

From the work of artist Yinka Shonibare its clear not much is open to broad interpretation, which seemed to contribute to a dearth of good questions from the audience. One audience member, perhaps wanting only to hear himself, asked Shonibare what his thoughts on Madonna’s attempts to adopt African babies were. Shonibare declined to answer.

From the Brooklyn Museum web site: This exhibition is a major midcareer survey of work by the UK-based Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE. Shonibare’s artwork explores contemporary African identity and its relationship to European colonialism through painting, sculpture, installation, and moving image. Shonibare is best known for his work with visual symbols, especially the richly patterned Dutch wax fabric produced in Europe for a West African market that he uses in a wide range of applications. His tableaux of headless mannequins costumed in this fabric evoke themes of history and its legacy for future generations. Through these works he explores the complex web of interactions, both economic and racial, that reveal inequalities between the dominant and colonized cultures of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

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One of the most interesting portions of the exhibit are the mannequins placed throughout the museum’s period rooms on the fourth floor. They serve to add life, though it be headless life, to these normally staid rooms. Another site-specific installation opens July 1 in the dining room of the Ballentine House at the Newark Museum.

Perhaps the best part of these member nights is the great social event in the lobby of the museum. Wonderful snacks and drinks are served in a social setting that to me more than justify the price of a museum membership.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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