Environment and Object • Recent African Art • VCUarts Anderson Gallery
Opening Friday, September 9, 6-8 pm | On view September 9 – December 11
Organized by the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, this exhibition examines recent African art according to two fluid and often intertwined aesthetic and conceptual frameworks: the impact of the environment on contemporary African life, and the use of found objects and appropriated materials as a recurring presence in current African art. Charting a wide range of ways that contemporary artists from Africa are responding to environmental conditions and their own situations to make art, Environment and Object will include sculpture, photography, painting and video by well-known artists from Africa and contemporary African artists living abroad. They include El Anatsui, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and Yinka Shonibare, as well as emerging artists such as Bright Ugochukwu Eke, George Osodi, and Nnenna Okore, among others.
These sixteen artists engage the environment in varied ways and display distinctly different approaches to the use of objects and media in their art making. Some artists in the exhibition focus on the interplay between natural resources, capitalism and colonialism, and their impact on life in Africa today. Decisively rejecting romanticized perceptions of Africa, they interrogate contemporary African conditions and their urban and natural landscapes as contested spaces of economic and political power, creating conceptually resonant images with an overt social critique. Other artists in the show employ strategies of accumulation and “recuperation,” drawing on objects present in their surroundings to create dense, poetically lyrical works that combine a love of abstraction with a commitment to the use of quotidian materials. The interdisciplinary implications of the art on view will underscore the range of ways environmental issues impact Africa, adding the frequently biting and provocative voices of these artists to scientific and political discourses on African nations, environments, and realities.
Environment and Object • Recent African Art was curated by Lisa Aronson, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore College, and John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang Museum. The accompanying catalogue, which includes essays on a range of topics related to art and the environment, is a valuable resource on the current generation of contemporary African artists.
Read Holland Cotter’s review of the exhibition in The New York Times here.