I went to the opening reception two weeks ago of the must-see exhibition, The Global Africa Project on view at the Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle New York (exhibiting through May 2011). I anticipated this show for a while, due to a good friend of mine Cheryl R. Riley’s participation in the exhibit. The focus is on Africa and its diaspora, the curator for the show Lowery Stokes Sims said she wanted to stress the “global” far more than Africa. She and the co-organizer, Leslie King-Hammond, Founding Director of Center for Race and Culture at MICA (Maryland Institute Collage of Art) chose artists who are African or of African descent no matter where they were born, but they also selected artists from all over the world who in some way reflected Africa and in some way incorporated Africa and its diaspora in their work!

As an example, the artists participating in the show were very diverse, i.e. Janet Goldner, an American Sculptor of Eastern European descent who draws on her frequent travels to Africa, and Daniele Tamagni who while on assignment for the Italian magazine Africa in 2007 discovered a group of Congolese men, members of the Society for the “Advancement of People of Elegance” dressed up in tailored and brightly hued suits.  As a result he published  photographic book titled Gentlemen of Bacongo (see tile below).

He was intrigued with the way these Congolese men where dressed to the nines and just fascinated by their high-style in tailored brightly hued suites.  He said “they mixed a hot pink suit with a red bowler hat or a snow-white suit with a brilliant turquoise shirt” using various hues of bright color to adorn themselves with lavish styled clothes.  Tamagni discovered that these men are a part of a subculture and some people think of them as jokers and not serious, but others say they are successful men, style aficionados and respect the fact that they are popular.  “They’re like actors” they are invited to parties because they give an elegant look to them and are paid to attend these events like weddings, funerals and birthday parties.  The colors these men use in their attire is amazing design and flare is obviously very important to them!

Iona RozealBbrown, “my e.a.s.y. – for Octavia” (after Kitagawa UtaMaro’s ’The Young Daughter of a Townsman and Her Lover with Shamisen Beside’ and ‘The Lovers’ from Utamukura’s ‘The Poem of the Pillow) 2009. Acrylic, pen on wood panel.

Learn more about Iona’s work by clicking onto her name (above). Her latest body of work has been published and is based on a complex mythology that explores the pressures and obstacles facing young women today. Ranging in various playful and whimsical tones and includes samplings of African American hip hop culture and Japanese art history taken to new levels. The 96 page, hard cover catalogue features 43 color images of brown’s work, and details her residency at MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Featuring an essay by MOCA Associate Curator and Director of Education Megan Lykins Reich and an interview by Isolde Brielmaier.

Xenobia Bailey and her “Zulu Queen Harvest Coat,” 1991, Acrylic, cotton 4-ply yarn, glass beads, mirrors, buttons; single-stitch crocheted. Check out Xenobia’s Crochet work on her web site by clicking onto one of the links.  Wearable art with intricate detailing an artisan’s work at its best!

New Yorker Cheryl R. Riley, “Dogon Chair 1,” 1997, Poplar, amber, beads, brass tacks, copper pipes, pennies, wire; Cheryl was previously a 6 year member of the board and instrumental in planning the relocation of the former American Craft Museum from their Lincoln Center location to the modern space on Columbus Circle and renaming it The Museum of Art and Design. Details on Cheryl’s remarkable “Elevation Mirror I: Arizona/New Mexico 2000,” made of Honduran mahogany, beveled mirror, brass tacks, found and made objects can be found by clicking on this link!