African masks on show in New York
by: Yaella Biro
Our first stop is New York where the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the new home for creative re-imaginings of the African mask. The exhibition, “Reconfiguring the African Icon: Odes to the mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents,” is a collaboration between the Museum’s departments of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art and Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
African masks are often thought of as carved wooden artifacts. But these five artists detail the masks with infinite potential for reinvention.
Yaelle Biro, Assistant Curator, said, “I think it’s important to expose artists with different backgrounds. We have artists from Africa from Benin. We have American artists. We have one artist in particular from the beginning of the century. We have other artists who are from the 21st century. We are trying to show how the mix of these artists – each with their own unique personality and experience – are finding ways to explore the mask and African masks in particular.”
Alisa Lagamna, Curator, said, “What Man Ray does in that photograph is what we’re addressing with all the works in this exhibition. Taking the masks out of Africa in a sense elevating it as a work of sculpture and playing with it as a source of inspiration in it’s right.”
America artist Willie Cole has three pieces on display, in one he uses bicycle parts to interpret the historical significance’s of the African mask.
For Cole, being a part of the exhibition is meaningful.
Willie Cole, Artist, said, “I am standing, straddling I guess the past, present and the future were I am pulling forth some sort of spiritual connection I like to believe with my accent past, you know before Western world. But I am also, and I’ve been told by other curators, tapping into modernism as well as contemporary conceptual art.”
The works will be on display in New York until June.