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Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents

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Special Exhibition: Reconfiguring an African Icon

Program information

Installation co-curator Yaelle Biro discusses with artist Willie Cole his perspective on the African mask as a source of inspiration for his works featured in Reconfiguring the African Icon.

Reconfiguring an African Icon

Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents

March 8–August 21, 2011

Works featured in this installation are highly creative re-imaginings of the iconic form of the African mask. Among them are sculptural assemblages made of incongruous combinations of discarded materials by two contemporary artists from the Republic of Benin, Romuald Hazoumé (b. 1962) and Calixte Dakpogan (b. 1958). These ironic tributes to the mask as the African form of expression most renowned in the West are considered within a wider art historical context through their juxtapositions with works in a variety of media by modern and contemporary American artists. The celebrated photograph by Man Ray (1890–1976), Noire et Blanche, recent interpretations in glass by influential sculptor Lynda Benglis (b. 1941), and composite creations by Willie Cole (b. 1955) are among these.

The installation is a collaboration between the Museum's departments of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art and Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.