Saturday, April 12, 2014

Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone

Where: African Art Museum

When: through August 17, 2014

True confession: I'm not a fan of traditional African art.  I like lots of the contemporary things I've seen; in fact, Yinka Shonibare, who is from  Nigeria, is my favorite artist, bar none.  But traditional masks and figurine carvings, they just don't speak to me.  I keep coming to shows here, hoping to see something that will allow me to "get it," and I keep walking away as mystified as ever.

I remember coming to the African Art Museum to see highlights from the Tishman-Disney Collection.  The Tishmans were a husband and wife who collected African art, and when asked why, they responded, "Who can say exactly?  How do you know why you've fallen in love?"  I guess what it comes down to is that I'm just not in love with African art.

And, after seeing this show on art from Liberia and Sierrra Leone, I'm still not in love.  The show is largely masks and carved figurines, so if you like that sort of thing, run right over.  There were a few textiles that I enjoyed seeing, but that's a small part of the total show.

The exhibit features art collected by William Siegmann, the former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum, who worked in Liberia from 1965-1987.  The wall notes describe him as a connoisseur of African art, and give you information on how to judge the pieces you see.  Clearly, I'm not the only one who finds the work a bit alien.  Even armed with this new information, I still couldn't really like it.

Oh well, perhaps the next exhibit will be the one to do the trick?

Verdict:  If you like masks and carvings, you'll very much enjoy this show.

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