The exhibition of some 100 objects considers how the sun, moon and stars and celestial phenomena such as lightning and rainbows serve as sources of inspiration in the creation of African arts from ancient times to the present. Far from abstract concepts, African notions of the universe are intensely personal and place human beings in relationships with earth and sky and with the sun, moon and stars.
“This exhibition, many years in the making, is part of the museum’s series focusing on Africa’s contributions to the history of knowledge—in this case, knowledge about the heavens and how this knowledge informs the creation of spectacular works of art,” said Christine Mullen Kreamer, deputy director and chief curator of the National Museum of African Art. “The project connects my lifelong fascination with sky-watching to the arts and cultures of Africa, which for decades have been my passion and the focus of my professional work.”
The exhibition featured a selection of ancient Egyptian and Nubian artworks in wood, stone and papyrus, and 19th- and 20th-century masks, figures and ritual objects made by artists from regions south of the Sahara. The exhibition also includes works by internationally recognized contemporary artists who draw on the cosmos for inspiration, including El Anatsui, the late Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, Willem Boshoff, Garth Erasmus, Romuald Hazoumè, Gavin Jantjes, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Karel Nel, Marcus Neustetter and Berco Wilsenach.
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works
by El Anatsui
is organized by the Akron Art Museum
The first solo exhibition in a New York museum by the globally renowned contemporary artist El Anatsui, this show will feature over 30 works in metal and wood that transform appropriated objects into site-specific sculptures. Anatsui converts found materials into a new type of media that lies between sculpture and painting, combining aesthetic traditions from his birth country, Ghana; his home in Nsukka, Nigeria; and the global history of abstraction
The Brooklyn Museum
Julie Mehretu (born 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is an artist, known for her large-scale paintings and drawings and her technique of layering different elements and media. Her paintings are built up through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making using pencil, pen, ink and thick streams of paint. Her canvases overlay different architectural features such as columns, façades and porticoes with different geographical schema such as charts, building plans and city maps and architectural renderings for stadiums, international airports, and other public gathering hubs, seen from different perspectives, at once aerial, cross-section and isometric. Her drawings are preparatory to her large paintings, and sometimes interim between paintings.
“I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.