Allison Moore

  • “Black Womanhood”

    “Black Womanhood” began by presenting the racialized female body as both absence and presence: Photographs portraying a female body (in some, covered in spices; in others, as negative space surrounded by spices) hung near the entrance—documents of Berni Searle’s performance about her mixed-race heritage and the trade that instigated South Africa’s colonization (Traces, 1999). Nearby was Renée Cox’s photographic response to Ingres, wherein she arches her back on a yellow divan, flaunting naught but a fly whip and cherry heels (Baby Back, 2001). Providing a contrast to Cox’s exhibitionism, the

  • “Flow”

    In 2001, Studio Museum curator Thelma Golden scandalized the art world by characterizing the work in “Freestyle,” her survey of African-American art, as “post-black”—and consequently revitalized 1990s “identity-art” debates for the twenty-first century. Following the similarly themed 2005 “Frequency” exhibition, organized by Golden and Christine Y. Kim, “Flow” will be the museum’s third attack on rigidified issues of identity and race. Kim will assemble some seventy-five works by twenty youngish, transnational African artists, at least half of whom have never

  • Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art

    While the title of this exhibition vaunts a media-based theme, it also puns on the show’s other focus. All of the sixteen artists and virtually all members of the collectives represented herein are black, and some of the eighteen works overtly engage with blackness. Cassel Oliver presents an untold history of sound and light art by black artists that is anchored by 1960s figures Tom Lloyd and former Fluxus member Benjamin Patterson and includes younger artists like Sanford Biggers and Nadine Robinson. By zeroing in on media, the curator also subverts essentialist

  • “Africa Comics”

    Comics have been cropping up in galleries with increasing regularity of late, with Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and others taking up the mantle of ambitious predecessors such as R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman. “Africa Comics” provided the US’s first comprehensive glimpse of the creativity and variety of comics published in sub-Saharan Africa, its European diaspora, and elsewhere. Organized in collaboration with Africa e Mediterraneo in Bologna, Italy—a nonprofit association concerned with promoting intercultural exchange—the Studio Museum show was small but still managed to feature work by thirty-two

  • María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Spoken Softly with Mama, 1998, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable.

    María Magdalena Campos-Pons

    This midcareer retrospective, María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s largest exhibition to date, explores the African diasporic experience through personal intimacies transformed into political testimonies.

    The artist as global nomad may be a cliché of the twenty-first century, but the realities of world history are such that individuals still hold allegiances to certain locales over others. María Magdalena Campos-Pons was born and raised in Cuba, where her Yoruban ancestors were slaves, and, although she now lives in Boston, she proudly proclaims that “African tradition is my everyday life experience.” This midcareer retrospective, Campos-Pons’s largest exhibition to date, explores the African diasporic experience through personal intimacies transformed into political

  • Soundsuit, 2006.
    picks October 31, 2006

    Nick Cave

    Brilliantly colored and shimmering with beaded patterns, or sprouting wooden sticks, horns, and sewn protuberances, Nick Cave’s exuberant, looming figures populate the gallery. These “Soundsuit" sculptures are punctuated with huge, decorative mandalas and C-prints of heads in decorated ski masks, suggesting terrorists gone wild. The Chicago-based Cave (not to be confused with the Australian rocker) explores performance, ritual, ceremony, fashion, and African roots. Recycled variously from thrift-store treasures—found knit sweaters, synthetic pussy willows, beads, and masks—and natural

  • Beast with Horn (Oja Suite), 1962.
    picks June 13, 2006

    Uche Okeke

    That multiple modernisms occurred at different times in different places is a recent revelation in the West, and rarely do we see the actual evidence in museums and galleries. A sterling example of Nigerian modernism can be seen in these thirty works on paper by Uche Okeke, a key figure in the Nsukka School, a group of artists who draw on past traditions to create contemporary forms, following Okeke’s philosophy of “natural synthesis.” Small but diverse, the show progresses chronologically from Okeke’s early, slightly mechanized late-’50s naturalism to his artistic breakthrough using elements

  • Mattie with a Bourbon Red Turkey, Laverty Ranch, Custer County, Idaho, November, 2004
    picks June 01, 2006

    Laura McPhee

    Looking as though she’s engaged in a pagan ritual, a woman in white holds aloft an instrument in a vast, sun-gilded field. In fact, she’s checking for radio-collared wolves in her nightgown. Such semi-contrived visual incongruities give shape to Laura McPhee’s aesthetic in this solo show. “River of No Return,” its poetic title, refers to a wilderness area in rural Idaho where McPhee spent more than two years taking pictures of the landscape and its inhabitants. Forty large-scale photographs set the Sawtooth Valley in a framework that moves beyond the vocabulary of traditional, sublime Western

  • A Life Full of Holes: The Strait Project: Factory 1, 1998.
    picks April 24, 2006

    Yto Barrada

    Thousands of Africans have drowned crossing the narrow but treacherous Strait of Gibraltar, which divides Spain and Morocco, since the 1995 implementation of the Schengen Agreement closed Europe’s external borders. Yto Barrada’s photographs subtly examine the psychological and symbolic weight of this unilateral verdict on everyday life in the artist’s hometown of Tangier. Ennui is palpable, such as in a factory scene where rows of workers in surgical masks and green caps peel Dutch prawns for shipment back to the Netherlands. Tangier’s fabled hill of Antaeus, where Hercules felled his giant, is

  • Bamako Biennale

    International biennials tend to inhabit their host cities uneasily, but in the capital of Mali, one of Africa’s poorest countries, the disjunction seems more profound. The art world’s “discovery” of Bamako’s postwar studio photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé spurred the launch of the first pan-African “Rencontres africaines de la photographie” (Bamako Biennale) in 1994. Yet a significant gap divides the vernacular reception of those black-and-white studio portraits taken for local families in the ’50s through ’70s from their reception as fine art photography by today’s international

  • “Africa Remix”

    According to Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, art made in Africa since the end of colonialism is not necessarily postcolonial, but most of the works in “Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent,” shown this summer in Paris following appearances in Düsseldorf and London, fit the bill. For Appiah, that prefix post- indicates not merely a temporal, historical division, but also an inherent critique of the hierarchical power structures of colonialism, much as postmodernism critiques and subverts the grand illusions and metanarratives of modernism. The art in “Remix” provokes reflections