African Mask & Sculpture Influence upon Modernism (slideshow) — Related: “Disguise: Masks & Global African Art,” Brooklyn Museum, through September 18th

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973): Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. Oil on canvas, 8′ x 7′ 8″ (243.9 x 233.7 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.

Related Exhibition: “Disguise: Masks & Global African Art”
April 29 — September 18, 2016
Brooklyn Museum, NY

Among the European avant-garde in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a search for the “primitive” in art. The benchmark Armory Show of 1913 introduced the exoticism of African art. Adaptations of the shapes, contours and lines of African masks and sculptures quickly found their way into the new modernism styles. Premier among these works: Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Paris, 1907.

Why masks? Maybe it is the simple mystery of it. Or perhaps it is an association with the mask’s original purpose, that of disguising a personal identity so to function as a direct conduit to the transcendent — or to magic. Or is it the symbolism of that which is ideal, beyond imperfection and thus more potent?

Currently showing through September 18th at the Brooklyn Museum, NY, is a closely related show: Disguise: Masks & Global African Art. The exhibition highlights contemporary works with historical African objects from the collections of the Seattle Art Museum and the Brooklyn Museum “within an immersive and lively installation of video, digital, sound, and installation art, as well as photography and sculpture.”* The romance, adaptation and influence of African art is happily still strong, vital, powerful.

— Jules Cavanaugh

* Press Release, Brooklyn Museum, NY


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