Double Take: African Innovations

Brooklyn Museum, New York, United States
29 Oct 2014

Double Take: African Innovations

Owusu Ankomah (Ghanaian, born 1956). Looking Back into the Future, 2008. Bremen, Germany. Acrylic on canvas; Charles Stewart Smith Memorial Fund

A new exhibition of African works from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, displayed in fifteen thematic pairs, explores new ways of looking at African art by focusing on artistic themes, solutions, and techniques recurring throughout history. Double Take: African Innovations will open October 29 in a temporary location while an extensive renovation of the first floor of the Brooklyn Museum is under way. The temporary installation will also include selections from its extensive holdings in an open-storage display.

Double Take, the second phase in the Brooklyn Museum’s ongoing expansion of its African collection and exploration of the stories these works can tell, continues and builds upon African Innovations, the critically acclaimed historical presentation that will be deinstalled in late September. This interim installation of nearly forty objects features a number of new and major recent acquisitions. Looking Back Into the Future (2008),a work by internationally recognized Ghanaian artist Owusu-Ankomah, whose paintings depict a spiritual world inhabited by people and symbols, will be paired with an ancient hieroglyph-inscribed shabti of the Nubian king Senkamanisken (r. 640-620 B.C.E.) to explore the art of writing as a fundamental embodiment of human expression in Africa over the course of many centuries. The Owusu-Ankomah acrylic on canvas depicts a nude male figure emerging out of a complex group of symbols representing proverbs of the Akan people of Ghana.

Also recently acquired, and on view at the Brooklyn Museum for the first time, is Fiegnon (2011), by celebrated Beninois artist Romuald Hazoumé. Like many of his most celebrated works, this piece is built around a discarded oilcan. This remarkable object, fashioned to look like a man’s head, represents the first acquisition by a public collection in New York City of a work by this sculptor, installation artist, and photographer, whose art has been exhibited internationally in museums, biennials, and galleries. It is paired in this installation with the unequaled twelfth-century terracotta Fragment of a Head, by an unidentified Yoruba artist from Ife, Nigeria, to highlight continuities and innovations in African portraiture.

Other familiar and celebrated favorites from the Museum’s African holdings that will be a part of this temporary installation include the sixteenth-century copper-alloy masterpiece Figure of a Hornblower, by an unknown Edo artist from the kingdom of Benin, which stood on an altar dedicated to a deceased king at the royal court of Benin-one of only ten such figures known to exist. It will join Welcome in Our Peace World, a remarkable 1993 piece by South African Johannes Mashego Segolgela, which celebrates the end of the armed struggle against apartheid and the dawning of a new, democratic era. The artworks commemorate specific historical moments in two vastly different societies. Other themes represented in the installation include performance, the body, power, design, trauma, satire, and virtue, among others.

In a feature unique to this experimental installation, visitors will be invited to recommend additional themes for works to be presented in a display case devoted to audience suggestions and questions. This audience feedback, along with the experiences of both Double Take and African Innovations, will inform the upcoming larger presentation of the Museum’s African collection. During construction, an open-storage area containing more than 150 additional African masterpieces will remain on view.

Double Take: African Innovations has been organized by Kevin Dumouchelle, Associate Curator of African Art.

More information about African Innovations on www.brooklynmuseum.org



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