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Illuminating African art

BALTIMORE - The Baltimore Museum of Art is bringing African art into the light.


Baltimore Museum of Art 
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218-3898


illuminating African Artby Emily Campbell Dec 16, 2006 found at

The exhibit, titled Meditations on African Art: Light, is the first in a three-part series that will examine the use of light, color and pattern in the objects of the BMA’s African art collection.

Dance Mask with Superstructure (D’mba). c. 1938. African, Guinea The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Alan Wurtzburger, Baltimore. BMA

“One gallery is installed in dim light, for pieces that were meant to be seen in evening performances or dim light,” said Karen Milbourne, associate curator for African art and department head for the arts of Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands. “Another features items that were meant to blind you in dazzling sunlight, the third addresses light in a philosophical sense, associated with religion. The final gallery features a new work by an internationally renowned contemporary artist, Theo Eshetu.”

More than 40 objects will be on display for the exhibit, which fills two galleries of the museum and includes at least 12 different countries on the African continent. The exhibit is primarily sculpture but includes some textile, video and photography, as well. One of the displays the museum is excited about is their D’mba, an African dance crest made by the Baga artist of Guinea.

“It will be the first time she’s seen in the round; we are putting her in the center of the gallery,” Milbourne said. “She has been treated by conservation, so her brass sparkles like it first did in Guinea.”

“This is the first time any museum has addressed the visual and conceptual importance of light in African art,” Milbourne said. “It’s quite interesting to see the specific and conscious choices in relationship to light levels.”

“This exhibit foreshadows the direction [the museum] is hoping to go in, with each work singled out for its original beauty,” she continued.

“The Meditations exhibition presents an exciting new way to look at African art with dramatic lighting that evokes the experience intended by the artist,” said Anne Mannix, director of communications at the BMA. “It is also an opportunity to see several works of art on view for the first time.”

“Because it does range from ancient Egypt to contemporary artwork and across media, there is something to appeal to everyone here,” Milbourne said.



related: African art adventures kicking off at BMA Baltimore Museum

December 17, 2006 - April 1, 2007

The first exhibition in a three-part series that explores light, color, and pattern in objects from the BMA's distinguished collection of African art, Light features more than 40 works, including a recently acquired bead painting by Yoruba artist Jimoh Buraimoh and the BMA's world-renowned Baga D'mba (seen in the round for the first time in decades). The BMA has also invited internationally renowned Ethiopian video artist Theo Eshetu to create a contemporary light-based work for the gallery. Varying light levels in the galleries will reveal the objects as they were meant to be viewed, including vibrant works of art intended to radiate spiritually, those that were meant to dazzle during sunlit performances, and pieces intended for the shadows or nighttime performances.


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