Monday, August 06, 2007

Artist date to National Museum of African Art

I spent this morning at the National Museum of African Art. I decided today would be the day to finally see the Walt Disney Tishman collection of african art. (You can click on each image to see more details) Once arriving I found that I had forgotten my sketchbook and sketching pens, so used what I had on me - a moleskin book and a uniball pen. Wasn't as bad as I thought, even with the ruled paper. The sights were too amazing to not pull out something to draw in and make notes. I started in the garden - the courtyard between the African museum and the Sackler museum outside the Castle (in Washington DC). Well, it's somehow just bursting with greens and flowers in this heat and overflowing with gorgeous tropical blooms - hard to resist and impossible to ignore before I entered the building. In this first sketch you'll see a lobster claw in full bloom. What a surprise to find as I turned the corner.

I headed into the museum only to be distracted by pieces of the permanent collection, like the patterned tapestries you see to the left, and another exhibition by an African artist named Antonio Ole. His works were full of imagery layered with found objects. A wonderful unexpected find. There were works on paper, wall sculptures created with found objects, and some video. I can't believe I haven't been to this museum before...

Finally I wander into the exhibit that I came for. It's a wonderful collection of 81 pieces that are mostly masks and sculptures. The forms seem just as contemporary today as what you'll find in an art gallery today. Not too shabby for the early 20th century. Many are inspired by nature: animal forms (horns, beaks, wings, snouts), plant forms (seeds. stalks, grasses), sea forms (fish heads, teeth), and combinations of patterns that will make you're head spin. It's primitive bold and fabulous, I'm hoping it will inspire a new mark or form while I paint this afternoon. In this last sketch you can see a wild horned mask, it's even more shocking in person.


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