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The “primitivism Before/beyond Modernism” Exhibition

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Ana Coulibaly

The “Primitivism before/beyond Modernism” exhibition

        When I first saw the “Primitivism before/beyond Modernism” exhibition, the first thing that crossed my mind was that there was little coherence between the different arts displayed. Although there were more than one of some objects such as the pictures/Lithographs and the African sculptures, I still felt that things were out of place. For example, the display of the power bundle right in front of the Lithograph that depicts St.Georges De Bosher Ville’s Chapter House immediately created a contrast in my mind for two big reasons. The first reason being the difference in the forms of the arts, one being a lithograph and the other one being a three-dimensional object. The second reason is that I am personally familiar with objects that look very similar to the Power Bundle and based on my experiences, I have only seen such objects in African countries such as my own country. Meanwhile, the Lithograph depicted a building that to me looked western; which established a geographical difference in the objects of the exhibition. And by the time I finished looking at all the Arts displayed in the exhibition, I realized similar differences in the other objects.

        However, after looking at the different Arts and reading about them, I then started thinking about the diversity that this exhibition portrayed. The different types of objects and their position illustrate the difference in arts across culture; and at the same time, the exhibition put all the arts from these different places on an equal ground. For example, the Platter from New Guinea being positioned right in between the Plaster Cast of Spain and the Lithograph by Engelmann.  This not only suggested that each one of these objects are equally important in the art world but also that despite their apparent differences, they can still be placed side by side and create more art.

        The Spirit Spouse (Baule Culture- Ivory Coast) looks like a woman but not fully defined or human. For example, the overly elongated face/jaws and the overly large ears are unrealistic on a human. The cross on the breasts makes me think that they are not supposed to be touched. This sculptures’ abdominal area contrast with the face. The belly button looks like it’s both a belly button and a nose because the curve drawn right underneath it looks like a smiley face.  The actual face of the sculpture looks almost emotionless but a little angry because the lips look pouted. The way the ears go into the jaws also looks unrealistic because there is no definition in where the ears stop and the cheeks/jaws begin. The eyebrows look overly arched and similar to the lack of separation of the ears from the cheeks/jaws, the eyebrows also look like they go onto the sculpture’ nose. I could only count 4 fingers on the hands which tend to be unusual for real-life people/women. The women in the sculpture appear to have no knees. The butt goes right into the thigh then the shin. The fact that the foot doesn’t have toes and it emerged into something on the sculpture might indicate that this woman doesn’t walk. Everything on the sculpture looks black including the eyes. It looks like it’s made out of wood which can be seen in the little areas of the sculpture losing the black color (the description also says it’s made of wood.) This sculpture certainly depicts a woman but as I previously mentioned, the features are unrealistic which Is what was appealing to me, but also, I am familiar with objects like this which was also appealing.

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