Behind the Primitive Shadow:
History and Its Consequence on Contemporary African Art
My undergraduate thesis, written under the advising of Dr. Kellie Jones and Dr. Yvette Christianse, looks at the historical and curatorial framework of the Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Focusing in particular on the primary gallery of African art, I situate the wing within African art history as a discipline and explore the consequences of a primitivist framework on the display of El Anatsui’s Between Earth and Heaven, the only contemporary work on view in the gallery. I am particularly interested in how curatorial and exhibition strategies can be used to create more inclusive art spaces and the intersection of race and art history.
The two spotlights over this work have been replaced by sensors and as a result, Between Earth and Heaven doesn’t shine as it should. While I’m usually a huge stickler for museum rules (I have called people out for touching work…), this video was taken with flash to be able to see the necessary dimension of the work.
An example of uli, Igbo body and wall painting. This style of drawing inspired the work of the Nsukka Group, a handful of artists working at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the 1970s. The simplicity of the lines and expert handling of space are especially evident Anatsui’s earlier wood panel pieces and continue to influence his metal wall hangings.