The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design from October 14, 2018 to January 6, 2019 in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Gallery. Making Africa showcases the work of over 120 artists and designers from and within Africa working in an exhilarating range of media including sculpture, fashion, furniture, architecture, film, photography, maps, digital comics, graphic and web design, and more. The exhibition presents Africa as a hub of experimentation—and as a driving force in the development of design in the twenty-first century.
Making Africa reconsiders and expands definitions of both design and Africa—a shift in perspective symbolized by Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru’s sculptural C-Stunner eyeglasses made of found materials (2012). The exhibition offers a vision of Africa in the twenty-first century as a place of unbounded optimism, rapid growth, and massive cultural transformation. This spirit echoes that of the midtwentieth century, when a young generation of Africans, celebrating their liberation from colonization, self-assuredly asserted themselves on a global stage. The exhibition draws parallels to that era by juxtaposing select examples of mid-twentieth-century art and design with contemporary works.
“The Blanton is thrilled to present this deeply insightful and relevant exhibition to Austin’s creative community,” said Blanton director Simone Wicha. “Making Africa: A Contintent of Contemporary Design celebrates the innovative and inspiring work of over 120 African artists, makers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives who are working at the forefront of art and international design. We are proud to share these globally forward-thinking perspectives, infused with the rich culture of Africa, with the Blanton’s audiences.”
The exhibition is organized into four sections: Prologue, I and We, Space and Object, and Origin and Future.
Making Africa does not claim to present a complete picture of design in Africa, a continent of 54 nations that speaks 2,000 languages, and has over a billion inhabitants. Instead, through a variety of media, works in the Prologue provide counter-narratives that challenge preconceived notions of the continent. For example, Alkebu-Lan 1260 AH (2011), a map by artist Nikolaj Cyon, imagines what Africa would have looked like had it not been colonized by Europe. Likewise, a series of pocket squares from fashion label Ikiré Jones’s 2014 collection The Untold Renaissance reinserts people of color as protagonists in the narratives and iconography of western art history. The artists, designers, and thinkers featured in this section of Making Africa assert the power of design as a vehicle for forging and communicating a wider, more representative view of Africa in the world.
I and We
At the intersection of style and politics, I and We focuses on design as a communicator of both individual and cultural identity. This section demonstrates how African creatives respond to, reinterpret, or diverge from global trends to produce distinctly African expressions of self or belonging, from explorations of gender and sexual identities to subcultures such as Botswana’s thriving heavy metal scene.
With an emphasis on fashion and photography, this section ranges from photographer J.D. ’Okhai Ojeikere’s black-and-white series documenting Nigerian women’s hairstyles from the late 1960s to 2000s, to Mário Macilau and Omar Victor Diop’s contemporary studio photography that captures the verve of their subjects, to cutting-edge fashion blogs from South Africa, and body jewelry made of wax cloth by MISWudé (Waxology, No. 1, 2014). “I and We” demonstrates the importance of style as a vehicle to communicate about oneself and one’s culture to the world.
- Zanele Muholi: Being / With her series Being, photographer Zanele Muholi wishes to make a contribution towards equal rights for lesbians in South African society.
- Sabelo Mlangeni: Black Men in Dress / Photographer Sabelo Mlangeni’s Black Men in Dress series portrays the South African gay scene, depicting a community that is often forced to hide from the public eye.
- Ian Berry: Cape Town Moffie Drag / Ian Berry’s series of photographs of Cape Town’s famous Madam Costello’s Ball were featured in Drum in 1959, and provided a look into the underground world of drag culture, poignantly capturing its racial intermixture and its air of camp, sadness, and joie de vivre.
- Umlilo: Magic Man / In Magic Man, his fifth official video single to date, singer and performer Umlilo inhabits a mystical realm that yearns to extend beyond imposed walls.
Space and Object
Space and Object explores how design shapes urban and personal environments as more and more people move to cities in Africa and throughout the world. In addition to a focus on city life and its impact on artistic creation, this section explores how everyday objects, living space, and urban space connect with habits, rituals, and needs. Pieces include the documentation of urban environments in Africa, such as famed architect David Adjaye’s Urban Africa Project and Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s photographs of Johannesburg’s decaying Ponte City towers (2008–10); speculative urban planning projects; furniture such as the Sun City cupboard by Dokter and Misses (2013), which turns urban security bars into a decorative element; and digital tools that empower communities to take action in an urban sphere.
A video gallery features short films by Frances Bodomo (Afronauts, 2014), Wanuri Kahiu (Pumzi, 2009), and Michael MacGarry (Excuse me, while I disappear, 2014) that explore themes of urbanism and futurism.
Origin and Future
The last section of Making Africa is devoted to design’s role as a mechanism for understanding the past and shaping the future. In the current era dominated by globalization and the Internet, Africa’s precolonial history and culture exert a profound influence on the creative activities taking place on the continent. For example, art director Pierre-Christophe Gam combined imagery suggestive of an ancient African kingdom with bright colors and cartoon-like graphics to give the website of French-Congolese musician Taali M a strong visual identity. A cape, trousers, and top from London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu’s 2013–2014 Birds of Paradise collection evokes the mixing of fabrics from Africa and Europe that he witnessed growing up in Nigeria, fused with Western haute couture design in a vision of cross-cultural exchange. Finally, Gonçalo Mabunda created his throne-like Harmony Chair (2009) from scrap metal and weapons used in the Mozambican Civil War as both a critique of African military regimes and symbol of the transformative power of creativity as resistance.
Wangechi Mutu: The End of eating Everything
In conjunction with Making Africa, the Blanton will present Wangechi Mutu: The End of eating Everything in the Film & Video gallery located in the Klein Gallery from September 15 to November 25, 2018. Mutu’s first animated video, The End of eating Everything (2013) features the musical artist Santigold as a bulbous, omnivorous being in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and suggests the destructive capacity of unbridled consumption. On view simultaneously will be two collages by Mutu, In Whose Image? and In Whose Image? II (2004), which explore representations of African and African American women.
Exhibition Organization and Catalogue
Making Africa is a collaborative project led by Vitra Design Museum Curator Amelie Klein and Advising Curator Okwui Enwezor, with support from a large board of curatorial advisors based primarily in Africa. The exhibition’s presentation at the Blanton is managed by Claire Howard, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Making Africa is accompanied by a 345-page, fully illustrated catalogue edited by Klein and Vitra Design Museum Director Mateo Kries. The catalogue features essays and discussions with Klein, Enwezor, exhibition advisory board member Koyo Kouoh, and urban theorist Edgar Pieterse, among others, complemented by statements from nearly seventy other African design thinkers and practitioners whose interviews are also featured in the exhibition.
This exhibition is organized by the Vitra Design Museum and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.
Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton from February 17, 2019 to May 26, 2019. The exhibition examines how modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx visual artists have engaged written language to make personal, political, and poetic statements.
Words/Matter is drawn primarily from the Blanton’s extensive collection of Latin American art. The collection began in 1963, when the museum’s first director established a collecting priority that identified contemporary art from both North and South America. Since then, the Blanton has continued to focus on collecting, researching, and exhibiting Latin American art. In 1988, it was the first museum in the US to establish a curatorial position devoted to this field. The collection now includes 2,500 works of modern and contemporary painting, prints, drawing, conceptual art, installation, video, and sculpture.
“We are very proud to shed new light on the museum’s Latin American art program with exhibitions opening simultaneously at the Blanton and at the Reina Sofía in Madrid this winter,” said Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “The Blanton has long been a leader in this field and continues to build on its commitment to celebrating the unique art histories that have emerged from Latin America.”
The 2019 Blanton Gala will honor the museum’s enduring innovation and engagement in the field and showcase the exhibition Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton, organized by Beverly Adams, the Blanton’s curator of Latin American art, and Florencia Bazzano, the Blanton’s assistant curator of Latin American art. “We are thrilled to share Beverly’s brilliant scholarship with audiences both here in Austin and concurrently in another exhibition drawing from the Blanton’s Latin American collection that begins a world tour in Madrid this February and will conclude at the Blanton in 2020,” continued Wicha.
Words/Matter highlights the depth and breadth of the Blanton’s Latin American collection, featuring approximately 150 works in a variety of media, dating from the 1930s to the present. The exhibition will also debut recent gifts to the museum, including several works donated to the museum by the late Jacqueline Barnitz, an internationally recognized scholar of Latin American art and UT Professor Emerita, and a group of Chicanx prints given to the Blanton by Gilberto Cardenas, a collector of Latinx and Chicanx art and professor at UT from 1975 to 1999.
“Words/Matter is a testament to the origins and future of the Blanton’s Latin American collection,” said Beverly Adams, curator of Latin American art and co-curator of the exhibition. “Bringing together works from the beginnings of the collection, such as Barbara Duncan’s seminal gifts of South American paintings, which came to the museum in 1971, with more recent gifts from collectors Charles and Judy Tate, Words/Matter showcases the Blanton’s deep ties to artists, scholars, collectors, and others working and interested in Latin America.”
Several key loans in the exhibition demonstrate the strong campus partnerships that continue to position UT and the Blanton at the forefront of this field. A collection of sculptural poems, as well as several Chicanx protest prints from the 1970s, are featured in the exhibition and are on loan from the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, the largest university research collection focused on Latin America in the United States.
“Organizing this exhibition allowed us to present our collection of Latin American art in a new way, organized around a significant theme: visual artists’ enduring interest in language and the written word,” said Florencia Bazzano, Blanton assistant curator of Latin American art and co-curator of the exhibition. “Words/Matter calls attention to the inventive and subversive aesthetics of artist’s books, poems, socially engaged printmaking, and conceptualist practices, revealing the powerful messages that emerge from the convergence of art and language.”
The exhibition has six sections that examine the varying ways artists made written language a key aspect of their work.
In this section, artists explore the experience of bilingualism by inventing new languages and designing alphabets—calling attention to what makes languages unique and sometimes untranslatable. Works range from Leandro Katz’s book Ñ (1971), which highlights a letter that exists mostly in Spanish, to Xul Solar’s watercolor Una grafía (1935), which features his use of shorthand to represent language phonetically, illustrating his desire to create an international language.
Poetry and Prose
This section foregrounds the diverse and enduring collaborations between visual artists, writers, and poets in Latin America during the twentieth century. Some visual artists published manifestos, magazines, or theoretical treatises about art, such as Joaquín Torres García’s Tradición del hombre abstracto [Tradition of the Abstract Man] (1941), a book and artistic manifesto. A painting of the same name by Torres García, composed of a grid and words, will also be on view. Others integrated literary allusions into their works. For example, Liliana Porter’s multi-media work Historia sin fin [The Unending Story] (1980) references Juan Luis Borges and visually quotes Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Nury González’s embroidered cashmere textile Recado a Gabriela Mistral [Message to Gabriela Mistral] (1995), features phrases that reference and honor Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral.
The exhibition also includes an impressive collection of Concrete Poetry, a type of poetry that conveys meaning through visual arrangement of words and letters in space. Several pieces by leading practitioners of Concrete Poetry in Brazil, Augusto de Campos and Julio Plaza, will be on display including Caixa preta (1975), a multi-media work containing three-dimensional poems. This section also includes works on paper by Mathias Goeritz, a proponent of Concrete Poetry in Mexico.
The Shapes of Language
This section includes works that take their form from the vehicles used to circulate printed language, such as codices, newspapers, magazines, and books. Visual artists adopted these new formats for the diffusion of art and ideas through public communication channels. The Shapes of Language features several artist’s books, such as Paulo Brusky’s ALTO RETRato (1981), Waltercio Caldas’s Velázquez (1996), and Gego’s Líneas (1966).
Artists invested in the social power of art have produced some of the most iconic work in Latin America. Fighting Words explores this radical spirit, with a focus on how the juxtaposition of images and language magnified political messages. This section will feature a salon-style wall of political prints, including Chilean, Latinx, and Chicanx printmakers. Fighting Words includes the work of several artists interested in Mail Art, an alternative method of communication used both to evade censorship and to connect to an international network of Mail Art practitioners. Prominent Argentine mail artist Edgardo Antonio Vigo’s portfolio Múltiples Acumulados [Accumulated Multiples] (1983), which he sent via mail to friends and associates, captures the breadth of political and performative work he created throughout his career.
Between the Lines
This section features works by artists who used conceptual strategies to evade censorship and form coded, yet urgent, political statements. Nemesio Antúnez, in the painting Estadio negro [Black Stadium] (1977), called attention to the torture of thousands of Chilean citizens by simply writing the title of the work and the date “September 11, 1973,” on the canvas. Similarly, Luis Camnitzer’s 35 photo etchings, Uruguayan Torture Series (1983), pairs photos with evocative one-line statements, referring to actual incidents of torture by the dictatorship that ruled Uruguay from 1973 to 1985. Contemporary artist Alejandro Diaz, a Texas artist and UT alumnus currently working in New York City, continues this legacy in his presentation of phrases that foreground absurdities in the art market, late capitalism, and US-Mexico relations.
Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton is organized by the Blanton Museum of Art.
Generous funding for the exhibition is provided by The Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation, Jeanne and Michael Klein, and the Scurlock Foundation Exhibition Endowment, with additional support from Cecily E. Horton, the Inman Foundation in honor of Nancy Inman, the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, and Sarah and Ernest Butler.
Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here
Exhibition exploring early inhabitants of Texas and more than 16,000 years of Texas history unveiled at Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas, unveiled a groundbreaking and comprehensive original exhibition that utilizes the most contemporary research to reconsider when the story of Texas began. Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here explores more than 16,000 years of history on the land we now call Texas.
“We’re so excited to bring the history of Texas alive through this dynamic and interactive long-term exhibition,” said Bullock Museum Director Margaret Koch. “We’re very grateful to all of those who have supported the project through the years, including the citizens of Texas and our incredible Texas State History Museum Foundation, whose members worked tirelessly to find funding for this incredible experience.”
Becoming Texas begins with a small stone weapon discovered at the Gault archaeological site north of Austin in 2011 that challenges traditional ideas of when humans first arrived in the Americas. As the exhibition moves visitors through thousands of years of human habitation, they explore the seasonal lives of American Indian tribes, hear the languages of early inhabitants, touch objects created specially for the Bullock Museum by indigenous artists, and understand what it took to survive and provide food for a family in early Texas through multimedia experiences.
One-of-a-kind artifacts gathered from across the country highlight the cultural interactions between American Indian groups and Europeans after their arrival in what we now call Texas. Gold and silver, rare maps, recently restored mission gates, alongside paintings and historic documents, tell of early relationships between American Indians and Spaniards. Becoming Texas also demonstrates early French ambitions in Texas, marking the first time the unique 300-year-old French shipwreck La Belle, excavated off the Texas coast, is on view alongside thousands of artifacts recovered from its hull.
Through early maps and documents, including the original American copy of the Adams-Onís Treaty signed by John Quincy Adams establishing the northeastern border of Texas, visitors witness the global politics and shifts in power that dramatically changed relationships between people and their environment. These artifacts combine with interactive games and an immersive landscape theater to give visitors a sense of what life on the ground was really like before we became the Texas of today. Personal accounts and artifacts telling the stories of the modern-day descendants of early Texans conclude the exhibition, connecting these early inhabitants to the generations of Texans who followed.
“Our understanding of the history of Texas is always changing with each new discovery. It’s been influenced by who records it, and what memories are passed down through generations. In this exhibition, you’ll see how the people of the past, from so many diverse cultures, often faced the same challenges we do,” said Koch. “You’ll witness the stories of tragedy, resilience, combat, and alliances that set the foundation for the state we would become. The amazing Story of Texas is a global one, a human one, and through the artifacts gathered in this gallery, we hope visitors find the stories of their ancestors.”
Bullock To Host 5th Annual American Indian Heritage Day Celebration
A variety of performances and educational opportunities will highlight the fifth annual Texas American Indian Heritage Day celebration on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Presented in partnership with Great Promise for American Indians, the event will feature public performances from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.
Led by Texas State Representative Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), members of the Texas State Legislature passed H.B. No. 174 in 2013 to create a day to honor the history and heritage of American Indians in Texas and to recognize their many contributions to Texas culture. Held the last Friday in September, American Indian Heritage Day celebrates the historical, cultural and social contributions of American Indian communities to the state. This is observed through ceremonies, activities and programs in public schools and other places to celebrate traditional and contemporary American Indian culture.
Dancing, drumming, storytelling and educational presentations will occur throughout the day at the museum for school groups. In the evening, the public is invited to enjoy the traditional and contemporary performance arts of Texas’s American Indian groups. This free public program will honor American Indian history, and highlight the continued vibrant cultural traditions through dancing and drumming performances.
The Bullock Museum has planned additional events to mark this year’s celebration, including a free screening of What Was Ours on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7 PM as part of the Texas Focus film series. The documentary tells the story of a young journalist and a teenage powwow princess, both of the Arapaho tribe, as they travel with a Shoshone elder to rediscover lost history and inspire hope. A panel discussion with Q&A will follow the screening.
Family Album: Photographs by Pierre Tartoue, is an exhibition on view on the museum’s second floor featuring 22 black and white photographs that capture a renaissance in American Indian communities in Oklahoma during the late 1930s to early 1950s. The photographs represent a tribal family album, telling the story of the survival and triumph of multi-generational families in an era of depression and war.
Beginning Sept. 16, the museum will show Smoke That Travels, a personal documentary by 18-year-old Kayla Briët that explores preservation and loss of culture and her own identity as Prairie Band Potawatomi. In the short film, Briët explores her indigenous roots through the memories and teachings of her family and examines what it means to be Native American today. Screening daily through January 7, 2018.
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[gdlr_heading tag=”h4″ color=”#ffffff” background=”#000000″ font_weight=”bold”]RELATED EVENT[/gdlr_heading]
[gdlr_heading tag=”h5″ font_weight=”bold” icon=”fa-calendar”]2017 AUSTIN POWWOW AND AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE FESTIVAL [/gdlr_heading]
The Austin Powwow, a family oriented cultural event, is one of the largest single day Native American Powwows in the country. In addition to a traditional Powwow with dance contests, Native drumming, and singing, the festival features outdoor storytelling and indigenous music, a Native American arts and crafts fair, and Native American food. Travis County Exposition Center, 7311 Decker Ln, Austin TX 78724. Saturday, November 4, 2017, 9 AM – 10 PM. All ages. $5 for adults, FREE for children under 12.
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