Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Les Eclaireurs" at the Palais des Papes

On the first day of a recent visit to Avignon, we took in an exhibition of African sculptors, "Les Eclaireurs". Most of the sculptures were on display at the Palais des Papes, but smaller groupings were being shown in other venues in the city. The show runs until January 14, 2018.

Palais des Papes, Avignon

It was the juxtaposition of modern African sculpture with the 14th-century building space that was most impressive. Normally the Palais des Papes is considered to be a must-see for visitors to Avignon, a monument to a pivotal period in the history of the region, when the seat of western Christianity was moved from Rome to Avignon. The exhibition added another dimension to the space.

With the aid of some well-considered lighting, the pieces were shown to great advantage against the ancient, crumbling walls and in the austere courtyard.

El Anatsui, Confluences, 2008
aluminum bands and copper wires

"The works of El Anatsui are recognizable among thousands: they are gigantic wall sculptures, designed so that each piece of aluminum may catch the light, and reflect it. The use of recycled materials represents among other things the habits of consumption of populations. For example, alcohol bottle stoppers, which he frequently uses, represent the history of trade between Africa and Europe, with alcohol becoming an element used in the transatlantic trade of slaves."

Nnenna Okore, Egwu Ukwu II, 2009
clay and burlap
"The works of Nnenna Okore [a student of El Anatsui] combine textures, shapes and movements. Of great fragility and fineness, they embody all the sensitivity of the artist. In working with natural materials ... [she] aims to make us aware of our waste and trash, our choices in life, and to encourage us to reflect on our environment."

Moustapha Dimé, Contemporary Dance, 1995
wood, metal, rope
"For this piece Moustapha Dimé uses driftwood, his material of predilection, which he decorates with ropes and metal plates to depict three characters dancing. Contemporary Dance, imbued with an incredibly precarious equilibrium and lightness, is emblematic of the work of the artist, a real master at balancing acts, whose delicate installations stand as if by enchantment."

Bamassi Traoré, Buffalo, 2016
recycled metal
"Bamassi Traoré grew up next to the Hann's Zoo [in Dakar]. The singular and ambivalent relation he has had since a young age with animals constitutes the essential material of his reflections which appears in his work. Reminding us of the primordial place attributed to animals in the oral African tradition, his realistic work suggests a real proximity, even a fusion between animal and human."

Ndary Lo, Espoir, 2001
"Since 1992, Ndary Lo has carried out research focused on man, with his favourite material, iron, ... slender, spindly figures, and his women with indistinct faces or stomachs full of dolls. In 2008, he was awarded the Dak'Art 2008 prize for the 'Muraille verte' (Green Wall), an impressive display symbolizing man's fight against desertification."

Ndary Lo, Egypte I and II, 2002

Ndary Lo, The Universal Prayer, 2002
melded metal

Ndary Lo, The Universal Prayer, 2002
melded metal, as seen from upper balcony
"An emblematic artist of the collection blanchère, Ndary Lo follows in the steps of Alberto Giacometti by creating long silhouettes. He initially created his silhouettes to send a message to Africa, saying she must now rise and walk. This imposing installation, composed of 60 melded metal sculptures, the artist's material of predilection, was inspired by a speech made by the Senegalese President, Abdoulary Wade. Instead of branches and leaves, the trees have human-like figures with arms outstretched towards the sky, symbolizing the desperate fight led by Man against Nature, and against deforestation at the same time."

Ighile Osaretin, Mayor's Head, 2006
paper, metal, plastic, wool

Ighile Osaretin, Mayor's Head, 2006
paper, metal, plastic, wool

This is just a small sampling of the works on display. There were several works in fibre, and more sculptures by women, as well as what I've shared with you here. The exhibition had the effect of adding a sense of humanity to the imposing architecture of the Palais des Papes.

1 comment:

Dianne Robinson said...

What a neat juxtaposition the exhibit must have been.