Monday, November 16, 2009

Yinka Shonibare, MBE

A year ago I got a copy of Art in America with an arresting image on the cover: a photograph restaging Goya's fabulous, nightmarish "El Sueno de la razon produce monstruos" ("The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"). Quite faithful to the original, although here the color is rich and the sleeping figure is clad in brightly patterned dress. I loved this piece but didn't really register much about the artist, Yinka Shonibare.

Well, this month through March, Shonibare has a massive show at the National Museum of African Art, and I will certainly not forget about him from now on! INCREDIBLE! I bought the exhibition catalogue as a birthday present to myself. And now I know that the bright fabric in the Goya remix is Dutch wax cloth from West Africa. Shonibare uses swathes of it to clothe the characters in his gorgeous, delightful, disturbing, and naughty tableaus. Go see this show if you are interested in fashion, textiles, postcolonialism, race, Oscar Wilde, Fragonard and/or sex! From

"British-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962) works across diverse artistic media to explore ideas about African contemporary identity and the legacy of European colonialism in the present... Shonibare's sculptural works often feature headless mannequins clothed in elaborate costumes from the period just before the French Revolution, when the European aristocracy controlled vast wealth, land and power. Referencing art history and the paintings of Jean-Honoré Fragonard in particular, with their depictions of luxury and privilege, Shonibare's sculptural tableaux portray idyllic, romanticized narratives as well as imagined scenarios of sexual decadence and violence."

I've been borrowing characters in fancy dress from Watteau for my paintings, as well as depicting headless figures, but with nothing like the power/cohesiveness of Shonibare. Very cool.

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