Africa, Imagined: Reflections on Modern and Contemporary Art

January 22, 2022 - May 1, 2022

Using a uniquely curated combination of loans and works from the KIA’s collection, spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Africa, Imagined: Reflections on Modern and Contemporary Art will juxtapose mostly West African works of art with European and American modern and contemporary works to explore three key themes: escapism, social inquiry, and cultural reclamation. 

The exhibition begins by demonstrating the mastery, discipline, and skill of African art using examples from the Yoruba, Dogon, Bwa, and Akan Cultures and beyond. Then it illuminates how Western avante-garde artists such as Picasso, Le Corbusier, and others appropriated African motifs into their works. The exhibition also provides an exploration of how artists of varying cultures and perspectives have been inspired by and responded to the ideas, truths, and myths surrounding African art. Works by artists such as Romare Bearden, Beatrice Bassette, Fred Wilson, Bruce Onobrakpeya, and Lamidi Fakeye among others demonstrate the methods African and American artists employed to connect with their African heritage, dispel cultural stereotypes, and uniquely influence new understandings of African art and history in the western world. Africa, Imagined will reveal how the arts of Africa are woven into modernism and extend deeply into contemporary art practice today, while also recognizing a variety of complicated pre and postcolonial histories, understandings, tragedies, and experiences with African art. 

Francis Littna, Encounter, c. 1959, watercolor and ink on paper. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; Gift of Victoria Marshall Littna.
Mickalene Thomas, You’re Gonna Give Me the Love I Need, 2010, mixed media. Permanent Collection Fund Purchase.  Unknown, African, Dan Mother Mask, wood. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Markin.   Elizabeth Catlett, For My People, 1992, linen bound book, color lithographs, hand-set type and letterpress. Gift of Ronda Stryker, William Johnston, Michael, Megan, and Annie Johnston.  Arshille Gorky, Mannikin, 1930-31, lithograph. Gift of David Markin. 

Passport to the Arts

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