We went to an art show on Monday: Ex-Africa, in Bologna. It was empty as one might expect on Monday at 10AM, and we took our time examining work from Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast… It’s difficult to imagine a continent as large as Africa in a few rooms, but the show was beautifully curated, and comfortable to see.
Once I ditched the audio guide, I was completely transported from rainy Italy to the warmth of Africa. These creators felt a visceral passion about the items they created: for their gods, for their health, for their celebrations and ceremonies. There were amulets to stave off smallpox: men covered with dots; delicately carved ivory ceremonial beakers; golden figurines to occupy the other side of the balance to weigh gold. I liked the nail-covered dog, and the golden leopard, some of the headpieces.
I was amazed that wood could have lasted a millennium, but it did – I guess it must be the dryness of the desert. There were works in wood, ivory, metal from a variety of ages, which inspired everything from Man Ray’s famous photo portrait of Kiki and the Head, to Bibendum, the Michelin man.
I, too, was greatly inspired and painted a bunch of impressions from Ex-Africa. Mostly joyous, in my case, but at least one was pretty scary, as Harika refused to eat her dinner with it in the room. Blair has started on some pieces to be cast in metal.
I thought of other works inspired by Africa, the cradle of humanity. Really, it was the cradle of so much modern art, from Modigliani to Klee to Naum Gabo. Around 1990, I was on the top floor of the Humana building with Blair some office workers, a tourist, and a janitor, with his push can and broom. We were all staring at a sculpture by Gabo, clearly inspired by African images. Mesmerized for a few moments, it was like being in the presence of GOD, the big Machine, a thread that held together all dimensions.
Online now, I am now looking for that sculpture and the building, but I can only find the building. It was probably just magic. It felt like that. The memory of artwork stays with me like a special song, rarely heard, but impressed forever in my mind.
ps. On a more mundane note, we have has some technology “upgrades”, administered by a young robot, resulting in surprising messages to friends. We apologize for what must seem crazy, inappropriate, and otherwise nuts.