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    Into Africa
by Joy Garnett
 
     
 
Walker Evans
Figure Stuck with Nails
1935 photo at the Met
 
Walker Evans
Figure Surmounting a Calabash
1935 photo at the Met
 
S. Collier
Sunday Service
at Savacou Gallery at the National Black Fine Art Show
 
Crest Mask with "spiral" hair
Cross River Calabar area, Nigeria
 
Barber shop sign
Ghana
 
Morgan and Marrin Smith
Easter Sunday in Harlem
ca. 1941
at the Schomburg Center
 
Kim Liebman
The First Man Was a Crowd
1998
at White Box
 
Santu Mofokeng
Chasing Shadows
1997
at White Box
 
Willem Boshoff
A Map to Get Lost By
1998
at White Box
 
Man Ray
Noire et Blanche, Paris
1926
 
Just as you were wondering if New York's cultural tempo might actually pause gently during this mid-winter white-out, Black History Month is here, and with it a slew of events and programs guaranteed to keep you running uptown, downtown and back, snow or no snow.

Begin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has organized a series of lectures, gallery talks and films in celebration of Black History Month, all of which are free with museum admission. Gallery talks run several times a week and subjects vary from "Birds and Beasts in West African Art" to "Musical Instruments of African Heritage" and "The Poetry of Art." This last, slated for Feb. 16, promises to be special, as two actors will read contemporary and traditional African poetry from Senghor to South Africa in the Met's African galleries.

An amazing series of films covering aspects of traditional African art, as well as the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary art, will be screened at the Met's Uris Center auditorium several times weekly throughout the month. Showing Feb. 5 is Inagina: The Last House of Iron (52 min.), directed by Eric Huysecom & Bernard Agustoni, 1998, which recreates the building of a traditional furnace for smelting in Mali.

To be screened Feb. 8 is Faith Ringgold: The Last Story Quilt (28 min.), directed by David Irving, 1991, in which the celebrated contemporary artist discusses her technique and shows us a sampling of her quilts. On Feb. 9 is Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance (57 min.), directed by Amber Edwards, 1993; Feb. 10 features From These Roots (29 min.) and Robert Colescott: The One-Two Punch (30 min.). From These Roots, directed by William Greaves, 1974, uses photographs and film footage to recreate the social and political climate of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Robert Colescott: The One-Two Punch, directed by David Irving in 1992, profiles painter Robert Colescott (b.1925), while he works in his studio.

For a full schedule you can visit the Met's spanking new, post-Y2K website at http://www.metmuseum.org and click til you reach its spiffy, searchable calendar of events.

Practice makes perfect
Opening at the Met on Feb. 1 to compliment the museum's full-blown Walker Evans retrospective is "Perfect Documents: Walker Evans and African Art, 1935." This exhibition re-enacts for us the great drama of the 1935 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, when for the first time African sculptures were shown as art objects rather than as ethnographic artifacts. The photographer commissioned to document the show was none other than the 32-year-old Walker Evans, who initially created a portfolio of around 477 images, and then went on to produce 17 portfolios.

Fifty of these photographs along with related sculptures will be on view, accompanied by a perfectly designed catalogue which recalls through its vintage installation shots, design and typeface, that momentous, modernist, quintessentially New York MoMA paradigm shift of 1935. Gallery talks will be given by the Met's photograph study collection archivist and curator of the exhibition, Virginia-Lee Webb, and by African Art curator Alisa LaGamma. Check the calendar for details.

The National Black Fine Art Show
The fourth annual National Black Fine Art Show, which goes on view at the Puck Building in SoHo, Feb. 4-6, 2000, has snagged actor Danny Glover as its host. Over 40 dealers from the U.S., Haiti and Canada will be touting their wares; for more info, check out the website.

Later in the week you can head downtown to the Museum for African Art in Soho, where a series of seminars on African American art is slated for Saturday, Feb. 5 and Sunday, Feb. 6 -- at the museum. Proceeds to benefit the Museum for African Art. For reservations and information call (212) 777-5218.

Hair is here
Also opening at the Museum for African Art is the exhibition "Hair in African Art and Culture," Feb. 9-May 28, 2000, which brings together over 170 objects from collections around the world. The show addresses the symbolic power and significance of coiffure in African society, and features masks and figures, combs, hairpins, beads, headrests and an actual Ghanaian barber shop.

To commemorate Black History Month, the Museum for African Art is organizing a series of lectures and programs that are listed at http://www.africanart.org/html/educational_programs.htm.

Black New York
Time to head back uptown. On view in Harlem since October 1999 through April 2000 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is the exhibition Black New Yorkers/Black New York -- 400 Years of African American History.

It includes over 400 objects -- mostly photographs and ephemera drawn from the Schomburg's various collections, and is accompanied by a catalogue, The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology, 400 Years of African American History (N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999), with a foreword by Maya Angelou.

Conceptual seduction?
Opening Feb. 3 and on view through Apr. 1 at White Box gallery in Chelsea is "Translation/Seduction/Displacement," a group show of two generations of South African conceptual artists. The exhibition is curated by Lauri Firstenberg and John Peffer, and it purports to make "a distinct break" with recent museum surveys of contemporary South African art by taking language itself as its core material and source.

The concept behind the show is a play on the various meanings implied by the word "translation" across South Africa's varied and conflicted linguistic playing field. A performance by the artist Willem Boshof entitled "Kykafrikaans" will be held at the gallery on Friday, Feb. 11th, 7-9pm. Contact the gallery for a schedule of special events which will be held throughout the exhibition.

African geometries
Looking ahead past Black History Month, take notice of "Masterworks from the Collection of Beatrice Riese," slated to open Mar. 24-Sept. 10, 2000, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. During the '50s, painter and textile designer Beatrice Riese assembled an important collection of around 80 sculptures, figures and masks from West and Central Africa, 35 of which comprise the exhibition.

Highlights include several pieces from Benin that have been given to the museum, and an unusual geometrically designed Songye figure. Many of the works are well known in African art circles for their stunning quality. As is always the case with public exhibitions of private collections, the overall vision of the collector comes to light -- Mrs. Riese is past president of the American Abstract Artists Association, and her collection reflects a strong interest in abstraction.

Noire et blanche
At Sean Kelly Gallery in Soho, tucked into a small but rather dazzling exhibition entitled "Marcel Duchamp/Man Ray" (Jan. 27-Mar. 4), are five of Man Ray's photographs of African sculptures. Best known of these is Noire et Blanche (1926), the portrait of the model Kiki of Montparnasse posing with an African mask whose visage is dramatically like and unlike her own. Since Man Ray made these photos in the 1920s, they stand as antecedents of the Walker Evans photographs of African sculptures now on view at the Met. And in a small reverberation of the Met's show, Sean Kelly has also displayed three pieces of African sculpture -- none of which, however, are pictured in Man Ray's photographs.


JOY GARNETT is a New York artist. By day she works at the Robert Goldwater Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the bookstore:
Perfect Documents: Walker Evans and African Art, 1935

Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts

The Power of Pride: Stylemakers & Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance

Unclassified -- A Walker Evans Anthology: Selections from the Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology

 
 
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