Saturday 28 June 2014

After Magic Ladders, Shonibare opens new show at Chicago museum

By Tajudeen Sowole
Less than two months after the U.K-based Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare (MBE) ended a solo art exhibition Magic Ladders, at The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, U.S, he has just opened another show in the same country.
  His current exhibition, which is the fourth Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago ()MCA) Project opened last week, and ending on October 2014.

Installation view, Wind Sculpture I Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2013
Steel armature with hand-painted fiberglass resin cast
240 x 133 5/16 x 31 3/16 in. (610 x 340 x 80 cm)

Organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at MCA, the exhibition continues Shonibare’s highlights of aristocratic and post-colonial themes.

Early in the year Shonibare had a two-month long solo art exhibition Dreaming Rich at Pearl Lam Galleries in Hong Kong.

MCA, on its website noted that Shonibare, has spent various parts of his life in England and Nigeria—two countries with a long, complex relationship. 

The statement described Shonibare as an artist influenced by his personal experiences in a newly liberated nation and its former colonial ruler, calling himself a “postcolonial hybrid.” But the curatorial note sees his wide-ranging works—including photography, sculpture, film, installation, and performance—exploring and questioning, more universally, the construction of cultural and national identity in a globalized society.

“Shonibare is best known for his installations of headless mannequins dressed in clothing made out of Dutch wax fabrics—or “African” batik. Although these colorful fabrics in vibrant patterns have become a sign of cultural pride and identity for Africans, they are a colonial invention, having been mass-produced in Southeast Asia, and exported by the Netherlands since the mid-19th century. This type of fabric intrigues Shonibare because it is simultaneously a fully manufactured and an authentic sign of   “Africanness.” In his cross-cultural investigations, Shonibare often examines moments in Western art history, especially the rococo and Victorian periods, that correspond with the early days of transatlantic maritime trade.

“Shonibare’s MCA Plaza installation includes three of his new Wind Sculptures. Nearly 20 feet high, each sculpture captures the movement of a billowing bolt of fabric. Their design was inspired by the sails of ships whose patterns derived from Dutch wax fabrics. The artist chooses these iconic fabrics to exemplify how signs of national or ethnic identity are culturally constructed.

“Shonibare’s installation is the fourth MCA Plaza Project. The series previously featured work by Amanda Ross-Ho (2013), Martin Creed (2012), and Mark Handforth (2011). Shonibare’s work is also included in the exhibition Earthly Delights (June 28–November 30, 2014).”

Born in Lagos and raised in the U.K Shonibare’s last visit to Nigeria few years aho had him toured some art galleries and other related facilities in Lagos Islands and met artists at a gathering organized by Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island Lagos. He explained that, through he had been in touch with Nigerian art via artists who visited the U.K., “I need to know more, so it’s good for me to come here and meet other artists.”

It was his first visit since he left Nigeria in the 1980s at 17. But he notes that Lagos has grown faster than he imagined: “It’s very encouraging to see that the city is beautified. I am excited, actually; very clean and different from when I was here 30 years ago. There is a room for improvement though and am ready to make my contributions.”

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