Tuesday, April 14

Fortune of reversal

Question the universe about something, and miraculously I run into it in an unexpected way. This usually makes me feel pretty dumb, but at least I can be consoled by the fact that it is in the world. As a continuation of the previous post on the the rise in visibility of artwork from Africa, I saw two excellent shows recently of artists working in Ehtiopia and South Africa.

As I mentioned before, the work of William Kentridge at the SFMoma was fantastic. I allocated about two hours to spend with it, but ended up there for four. Kentridge's short films, video installations and animatronic "plays" display an expert use of screening in an art space. The relationship that ties different perspectives of different individuals living during and after apartheid gives the viewer a holistic look at the effects of universal government policies on the individual and the deep roots that these policies take in the psychology of the people.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art has the work of the Ethiopian multi-media artist Elias Sime currently on view. Sime's work is a polished mix of non-art materials that evoke the everyday with compositions that are both graphic and resonant of western painting traditions. A tonal white canvas was actually, on closer inspection, an embroidered swirl of line work that could have been made by Edvard Munch if stitching had replaced paint as his medium of choice. Primitive-looking carved chairs have varied-sized legs jutting out of the front of the seat and legs, as if the sitter were birthing them out of the wood. A self-taught artist who resurrects fragments found in the landscape of contemporary Ethiopia (sometimes collected by neighborhood children), Sime expertly expresses the cultural mash-up that becomes all too common as traditions of countries like Ethiopia are slowly subsumed into the hegemony of global popular culture.

"William Kentridge: Five Themes," San Francisco Moma, Mar 14-May 31, 2009.
"Elias Sime: Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart," Santa Monica Museum of Art, Jan 24-Apr 18, 2009.

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