Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Book is a Work of Art That You Can Hold and Touch

Where: African Art Museum

When: through September 11, 2016

It was so hot in DC yesterday when I went over to the African Art Museum to see this show that I felt like I'd walked all the way to Africa.  This is our first big heat wave of the summer, and I maintain the first one is always the worst.  One's body is not yet adjusted to the humidity, and one really feels it.  I'm looking forward to the fall...

The easiest way to get to this exhibit is to enter through the Ripley; it's just off the main concourse.  The cool temperatures so far below the ground were a delight, and the ordinarily quiet offices were buzzing with summer camp activity.  As much as the crowds of screaming boys who seem to live full-time at the Air and Space Museum get on my nerves, I do realize that children who have happy memories of the Smithsonian are likely to grow up to be adults who will support its funding (just like me!), so I sincerely hope the campers are enjoying themselves to the fullest.

The exhibit is an interesting one, showcasing a wide variety of different illustrated books.  The curators took a very broad view of what is an "artist's book," so these are books with lovely illustrations, or books where the illustrations are primary, with explanatory text, or books that are works of art in and of themselves.  The thing they all have in common is that they are either by African artists or about Africa.

In addition to the books, there is also a video running, of interviews with several of the artists.  If you have some extra time, this is worth watching.  I noticed that the wall notes seemed targeted to younger visitors, as I've observed in other of the museum's shows.  This is probably a good thing, in that children might not be inclined to go to an art museum (especially if Air and Space or Natural History beckon), so making an effort to make the art accessible to them is laudable.  It might not be what I would choose for myself, but I understand that it's not all about me.

Verdict: A nice exhibit, one that you could see with kids.

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