CURATED BY LYLE ASHTON HARRIS, NANCY BARTON & CHRIS BOGIA ASSISTED BY BONNIE LOUGHNER AND EMMA WINDER
The shrine and the masquerade are among humanity’s most ancient strategies of negotiation with the vast forces of history and nature. Cloth shrines, costumes, clothing, and arrangements of household items, have long served as forceful talismans whose integration into daily life was an essential source of their power. The portability of these articles of faith has been invaluable to nomadic African cultures. Now, in an era of global travel, the prestige and distinction of costume, from couture to cross-dressing, can be packed across continents in a single suitcase. The lightness of cloth belies the strength of beliefs, which flourish without the shelter of stone churches. In an ever-increasing proliferation of form, the shrine remains a portal to dimensions where attitude alone may not prevail.
The artists in this exhibition: Almighty God, Xenobia Bailey, Nancy Barton, Chris Bogia, Onyedika Chuke, Samuel Fosso, Phyllis Galembo, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jim Hodges, Leyden Ynobe Lewis, Thomas McDonell & Richie Gergel, Zanele Muholi, Senga Nengudi, Robert Pruitt, Tracey Rose and Kehinde Wiley invent extraordinary shrines and masquerades, incorporating portraits, sculptures, pattern, illusion, sounds and color. They reference forces they fear, admire, and love, or simply those they wish to remain near. This submission to faith may be a response to the closeness of death, to mourning, a rebellion against imposed identities, or a belief in the transformative power of beauty. The artist’s desire to create and control, the wish to impose a certain order, could be taken for cruelty, or as evidence that the spirits of good fortune might do well to pay us a visit.
These three exhibitions promise to create an exciting dialogue around the legacies of African art in a new, cosmopolitan moment.