Friday, August 07, 2009

A Night At The Museum

"First Saturdays" at The Brooklyn Museum -- a free, family-oriented event of art and entertainment, held on the first Saturday of each month from 5–11 p.m. All evening long, the Museum CafĂ© serves a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and a cash bar offers wine and beer.

So the family hit the 5 train for Brooklyn last Saturday.

I was headed out to see an exhibit by Yinka Shonibare, there were art projects for the kids, and live reggae music in the outdoor sculpture garden. Something, literally, for everybody.

About Yinka Shonibare - from wiki:

"Yinka Shonibare was born in London to Nigerian parents. At the age of three they moved to Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria, where he grew up. He spoke Yoruba at home, but only English at his exclusive private school. His father was a successful lawyer, and summers were spent at their Battersea home in London. When Shonibare was 16, he was sent to board in England for his final two years of school education.

Shonibare has called himself "truly bicultural."

So, in a departure for The Night Shift, I'll take you on a brief, truncated tour of the Shonibare exhibit, which spanned two floors.

First up:

Leisure Lady (with Oceleots), 2001

Many, but not all, of the pieces in this exhibit included mannequins outfitted in antiquated styles of dress, but replicated with dutch wax printed fabrics, commonly sold across Africa.

I've got a special love of those fabrics -- here's a detour off the subject for a minute.

I've purchased yards and yards of this type of fabric from African vendors lined up on 125th Street. I couldn't pick a favorite pattern for my project, but I loved how all the bolts of vivid patterns looked side by side. So I just boughtt a couple yards of several patterns. I used them to was cover our family photograph albums, which typically have a crappy looking vinyl cover. It's a big improvement.

Ok, back to the Lady and the Ocelots.

Rather than pontificate about what I thought about the exhibit, I'll just share the information on the title cards and let you think about them for yourselves.

Leisure Lady (with Ocelots), 2001

Life-size fiberglass manequin, 3 fiberglass ocelots, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather, glass
Vanhaerents ARt Collection, Brussels

Shonibare has made a number of works that engage with leisure pursuits and their attendant association of class...As the artist says, "To be in a position to engage in leisure pursuits, you need. . . spare time and money buys you spare time. Whilst the leisure pursuit might look frivolous. . . my depiction of it is a way of engaging in that power."

Leisure Lady (with Ocelots) features a "lady of leisure" promenading ostentatiously with her 3 leashed wild cats. Eighteenth-century fashionability, exoticism, and the taming or subordination of nature are themes embodied in this work.

Shonibare's mannequins are characteristically presented minus their heads -- a playful reference to the beheading of the aristocracy during the French Revolution and the redistribution of power and land....He has also noted that the absence of heads in his sculptures removes direct connotations of race or individual identity.

Next up, a lage installation, taking up most of a single room and composed of some provocatively posed mannequins. Yes, kids, that is what it looks like, my darlings. This exhibit is a commentary on "the grand tour" taken by so many young European socialites back in the 17th-19th centuries. I took a Grand Tour of my own, when I was 18. It wasn't quite this exciting.

Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, 2002

Eleven life-size fiberglass mannequins, metal and wood cases, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather, wood, steel.

Composed of 6 works.

Moral values and sexuality have provided rich subject matter for Shonibare, culminating in his vast installation "Gallantry and Criminal Conversation". This work is inspired by the phenomenon of the Grand Tour, an extended trip focusing on the art, culture, and history of Europe (particularly France and Italy) that was considered central to the education of gentlemen and ladies from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.

Shonibare's installation explores the slippages between public and private life, revealing hidden intimacies and exchanges. The Grand Tour is simultaneously revealed as a kind of covert sexual tourism (adultery was called "criminal conversation") and a "coming of age" for wealthy young European socialites."

Next --

How To BLow Up Two Heads At Once (Ladies), 2006

Really, nothing more needs to be said, eh?

Moving on--

The Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour, 1996-97

From the placard:

"Shonibare's large installation The Victorian Philanthropists's Parlour explores the theme of wealth and its creation in the nineteenth century, as England's territorial ambitions reached across the globe..."

And if you examine the wallpaper closely, you're in for a surprise:

Reading again from the placard:

"The repeated motif of a black soccer player on the parlor's wallpaper and furnishings alludes to the relationship between colonial "haves" and colonized "have nots."


Next -- a darkened room played a loop of a short film Shonibare produced -- I haven't the details handy but grabbed a few snaps in motion.

The last room contained more references to the outright raping of Africa, so to speak.

This piece was huge, covering an entire wall, a reference to Africa's rich oil resources:

Black Gold II, 2006

And lastly,

Scramble for Africa, 2003

The placard sums it up neatly:

14 life-size fiberglass mannequins, fourteen chairs, table, Dutch wax printed cotton
The Prinnell Collection, Dallas

Scramble for AFrica is apivoltal work for Shonibare in its exploration of late Victorian England and its territorial expansion into Africa during the 1880s. The "scramble" for Africa be leading European and world powers resulted in the carving up of the continent, an act that was formalized at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. Shonibare's work depicts this historic gathering, showing various statesmen huddled around a table with a large map of Africa, eagerly staking their claims. In Shonibare's interpretation the heads of state are characteristically headless - and equally mindless in their hunger for what Belgian King Leopold II called "a slice of this magnificent cake."

There were a few more items but you get the picture.

Then it was out the door to hear Meta and the Cornerstones, playing some sweet reggae tunes in the moonlight.

Another great evening in Brooklyn............


Anonymous said...

Ooh! Lovely art, Victoria.And I wonder...did this exhibit prick any social consciences?
Your albums are greatly improved.;-)

zan said...

fantastic exhibit!

i used to take the heads off all my barbie and ken dolls and 'play' with them in similar poses, though shonibare takes my tea parties, fights over ken and activities to a whole different level! wonderful thought provoking, engagingly provocative works.

love the album-cover wall shelf, a piece of art in itself.

R Southern said...

If it weren't for you, I'd have really missed out! Thanks, world unraveller!

Melanie said...

These photos are great. What kind of camera and lens are you using??

VH McKenzie said...

I took all of these photos, including the photo album pics, with my iphone. Not too bad, eh?

melanie said...

I saw this exhibit earlier in the summer...I'm not sure how I felt about it! I think this is a kind of art that is so far off from what I think about as "art" that I am totally put off. Certainly, there's something there, but I'm not sure I understand what it is!

Ron Southern said...

Sometimes even politics can be poetry, but mostly it's not. Art has the same trouble, that almost any type of thing can be art, but most of those type things AIN'T. But I really liked this museum exhibit, whether I can explain it to myself (or anyone else) or not!