Artistic Art skill makes 'Treasures' shine
Tired of always being told what is beautiful about a piece of art from another culture? The new show at the National Museum of African Art might be for you.
December 30, 2004 1:07 am
By SHEILA WICKOUSKI From THE FREE LANCE-STAR
With "Treasures," the NMAA offers a different way of displaying art, one without the heavy interpretations that usually accompany works from non-Western cultures.
These works can be appreciated for merits of form and skill of workmanship rather than for their anthropological values.
This vibrant show consists of 73 rare, unique and distinctive African sculptures and masks, many of which are on public display for the first time in the United States.
"Treasures" is presented in a way that allows the viewer to connect with the art on a personal level as a thing of beauty. Rather than being organized by time, use or cultural significance, this approach to displaying objects hinges on the belief that visual stimulation or "aesthetic discovery" comes first and will lead into the exploration of cultural ideas and beliefs.
What is interesting is that what looks like a fresh way of displaying these objects, is the way in which they were first exhibited--without maps to explain each piece.
The minimal use of labels and explanation might be off-putting to some who find comfort in a textbook explanation. A leisure stroll through this show will dispel those fears.
Questions about cultural context can be satisfied by other resources made available by the NMAA. This exhibit provides an opportunity for enrichment through the sheer visual beauty of these gorgeous works.
There is so much to wonder at here--from how these masterpieces were created with only simple farm tools to the larger issue of where modern art would be without the inspiration European and American artists got from these primitive pieces.
WHEN: Daily, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., through Aug. 15, 2005
WHERE: National Museum of African Art, National Mall, 950 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington
COST: Entrance to the museum is free.
INFO: Call 202/ 633-4600 or visit nmafa.si.edu .
It's a quick trip across the National Mall from the NMAA to view the permanent collections of modern works at the National Gallery of Art. It is possible that Picasso, Braque and others saw some of the very same works that are in the NMAA exhibit. African art clearly influenced their work, which in turn has influenced contemporary artists.
Connoisseurs of and newcomers to African art alike also will appreciate the redesigned gallery with its 7,500 square feet of open space and 12-foot ceilings.
The viewer can walk around the glass cases, which are placed in the center of the room, and not against the walls. This allows objects to be examined on all sides for details like patterns, symmetry and surface treatments.
The NMAA is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with the first of three "Treasures" exhibitions to be mounted in the next five years. It is truly an experience to treasure.
Copyright 2004 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.
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