5 Takes on African Art / 42 Flags by Fred Wilson
September 27, 2017 – December 10, 2017
– April 29, 2018
(extended through Spring Semester)
CONTINUING A TRADITION of hosting challenging, exploratory exhibitions organized by student curatorial teams, this year’s team of graduate students from Art History, Studio Arts, Public History, and Afro-American Studies, curate an exhibition of African art drawn from the collection of Charles Derby, a UMass alumnus who has been collecting African art since the 1970s, in tandem with an exhibition of Flags of Africa by the renowned African American artist Fred Wilson. By having the student curators come from different fields of study, the exhibition has been strengthened by the multiplicity of viewpoints brought to the curatorial process. Working with a private collection, a collector, and a contemporary artist, this project offers a new model in exhibition curation, particularly in the way the conversation about African art is shared among the various disciplines on our campus, and how an artist can participate and inform the project in an innovative way.
Imo Imeh, a professor of African and African American art at Westfield State University, served as advisor, mentor, and co-curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition invites visitors to see objects on display not only as visually compelling works of art in their own right, but also as objects of encounter that can “tell” stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught global histories through which they have journeyed. They bring the “telling” of African stories into the museum experience and draw out resonances among the objects on view.
One of the goals of the exhibition is to ask the viewer to recognize that changes in context can create changes in meaning, but without losing the object’s “aura” and emotional impact. How do we shape interpretations of historical truth as well as artistic merit? What distinguishes African art as a body of work to study in and of itself, given the fact that objects from the African continent have been brought into the museum and gallery context only within the last 100 years? How do we convey intrinsic concepts about ethnicity, authorship, the spiritual, the metaphysical, or the utilitarian? It is our hope that this exhibition will probe these questions and initiate a dialogue that is important and meaningful within our larger community.
The exhibition is divided into five sections — or “5 Takes” — by the five curators, each highlighting a different aspect of Charles Derby’s collection. Encircling 5 Takes are Fred Wilson’s Flags of Africa, paintings which the artist stripped of color, thereby questioning how flags work, what they signify, and to what extent do they represent the people, history, and geography of a land that was delineated by a colonial master.
Exhibition Curators: Yingxi Lucy Gong; Kiara Hill; Imo Imeh; Vick Quezada; and Elizabeth Upenieks
Exhibition Design: Joseph Krupczynski, The Center for Design Engagement; Randy Crandon, Design Assistant
We gratefully acknowledge the following people whose support and advice have been vital throughout the organization of this exhibition: Charles Derby; Fred Wilson; Imo Imeh; Douglas Baxter, President of Pace Gallery, New York; and Victor & Karen Woolridge
Business and Corporate Support: UMass Five College Federal Credit Union, Hadley, MA; Leader Home Centers Lumber Yard and Hardware Store, Amherst, MA; Pace Gallery, New York
We thank the following UMass campus partners for their support: Friends of the Fine Arts Center; Interdisciplinary Studies Institute; Department of Art History; History Department
About the 5 Curators
This year’s team of curators Yingzi Lucy Gong, Kiara Hill, Prof. Imo Imeh, Vick Quezada, and Elizabeth Upenieks have curated an exhibition of African art drawn from the collection of Charles Derby, a UMass alumnus who has been collecting African art since the 1970s. The five curators come from a variety of disciplines and contribute a multiplicity of viewpoints to the curatorial process.
(WOMB)an explores the saliency of femininity and womanhood in West African cosmology. Kiara is currently a third-year doctoral student in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African American Studies, and in Public History.
Elizabeth breaks down Western notions of authenticity with objects that force the viewer to consider their own point of view and how it affects their perception of African art. She is currently in the second year of her master’s studies in the department of the History of Art and Architecture at UMass.
Yingxi Lucy Gong
Lucy explores the impact of collector Charles Derby's aesthetic taste, personal beliefs, and curatorial practice on the shaping of this particular exhibition. She received a Master of Art History degree from UMass in 2017 and is currently working at a modern and contemporary art gallery in New York.
Diasporic Consciousness explores the forgotten histories and overlooked narratives of utilitarian objects. Vick is currently a third-year Master of Fine Arts student in the Studio Art department at UMass.
Dr. Imo Imeh
Imo delves into the long history of twins and the Ibeji sculptures depicting them in Yoruba culture. He received his doctorate in Art History from Yale University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at Westfield State University.
All events are free and open to the public.
September 27 / 4:30-7:30 p.m. / UMCA and Fine Arts Center lobby / UMass Amherst
Exhibition Opening and Related Events
4:30-6:00 p.m.: Special Performance by the Bamidele Dancers and Drummers on the Fine Arts Center Plaza
6:00-7:00 p.m.: Panel Discussion with Charles Derby and the five curators in the Fine Arts Center Lobby
October 11 / 5:30-7:00 p.m. / Integrated Learning Center, Room 151 / UMass Amherst
Talk by Artist Fred Wilson: The Silent Message of the Museum, and Other New Works
Since the beginning of his career some thirty years ago, acclaimed artist Fred Wilson has created a diverse range of work that challenges assumptions of history, culture, and race. For this exhibition Wilson collaborated with the UMCA and the Curatorial Fellows, contributing an interdisciplinary focus on African art
November 15 / 5:00-6:00 p.m. / UMCA / UMass Amherst
Tour of Exhibition with Exhibition Curators
Join exhibition curators — Yingxi Lucy Gong; Kiara Hill; Imo lmeh; Vick Quezada; and Elizabeth Upenieks — as they tour the exhibition and offer insights into their curatorial approaches.
November 29 / 4:30-6:00 p.m. / UMCA / UMass Amherst
In Conversation: Ceramicist Juliet Bacchas and art historian/artist Imo lmeh
Discussion and demonstration of traditional West African techniques employed by contemporary artists.
Student Docent Tours / UMCA / UMass Amherst
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University Museum of Contemporary Art
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