[Seat (Profile), Belgian Congo]

Walker Evans American

Not on view

An example of a carved caryatid, this kneeling female figure attributed to the Buli Master Ngongo ya Chintu holds up part of the wooden stool. Framed above and below by two coil-like circular disks, the stool functions not as a seat but as a vessel for the spirit of a Luba or Hemba chief. The profile view and lighting enhance the figure’s face, her arranged hair, and the pattern on her midsection. Her disproportionally large hands, central to her role as caryatid, are de-emphasized within the photograph, placing the focus on the figure as opposed to her supporting role within the stool’s structure. The photograph’s title comes from the original catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1935 exhibition African Negro Art, which was one of the first shows in the United States to display African sculptures as works of art instead of ethnographic objects. Once the show was installed, Evans was commissioned by the museum to photograph the sculptures on view.

[Seat (Profile), Belgian Congo], Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut), Gelatin silver print

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