African Mask

Lonnie Holley American

Not on view

Composed of a welder’s mask mounted onto and encircled by shredded radial tire and various plastic objects (including an electrical socket), Holley’s sculpture suggests an African masquerade costume— one of many references to the arts of Africa detectable throughout the Souls Grown Deep gift. The surprising appearance of the welder’s mask in this context speaks to the experience of men of African descent who entered the modern industrialized workforce, specifically the steel and iron industry. Metalworkers traditionally have been held in high regard in West Africa, in contrast to the status of Black factory workers in the South. By elevating the welder’s mask, Holley reframes the object in terms of ceremonial costume and religious ritual, and highlights the importance of skilled labor throughout history.

African Mask, Lonnie Holley (American, born Birmingham, Alabama, 1950), Gum, plastics, nylon and metal

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