Inspired by African Aesthetics
Europeans and Americans collecting African sculpture and other art forms is nothing new -- Picasso and Matisse are widely believed to be among the first to acquire African pieces, at least for their artistic worth. Lately though, I feel like I'm spotting more and more African masks, textiles, and stools at shops where I wouldn't necessarily expect to find them.
For example, the masks above are from Hollyhock and are described as hand-carved and painted 20th-century Kifwebe Masks from the Southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. And Ceylon et Cie has a vintage Bene-Lulua mask from the border of Zaire and Angola. In terms of cloth, these textiles keep popping up in Michael Smith's projects.
In 2006, the Iziko South African National Gallery was the site of an exhibition that explored the influence of African Art on Picasso's work. The Met also offers detailed information about African inspiration in avant-garde modern art. It's thought that in 1906 Matisse bought a small African figure from the Democratic Republic of Congo -- a work that greatly impacted him -- but the artist also collected Kuba cloth. Shown at the top is a 19th-20th-century example woven from raffia palm fiber (collection of The Met). The second example above is from Jayson Home.
Sites to explore:
Image five, courtesy the BBC, is Picasso's Mother and Children Playing, 1951.
The image below is small, but I wanted to add it to the mix because of the petite "Kenya box" and the feathers. Rayman Boozer design in a tablescape for Essence, September 2006.
A friendly reader sent me the image below, snapped at Kaba Africa Art at the Chelsea Flea Market in New York. (Outdoor Lot, 25th St. between Broadway & 6th Avenue, 917-696-3699.) I'm told the textiles represent Congo design, and as always I'm struck by the inspiration David Hicks derived from similar cloths.
Below are samples from Hicks' scrapbooks as seen in David Hicks: Designer.
In Atlanta, the Carlos Museum has a strong collection of African art. Below is a copper and gold figure of a bull, from the Cote d’Ivoire, Lagoons Region, early 20th century.
Update, 2.04.09: Visit Esther Fitzgerald for a large selection of African textiles.