The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, announces the acquisition of four major works of art previously on view as part of the seminal spring 2016 exhibition “REMIX: Themes and Variations in African-American Art”. The acquisition consists of powerful pieces from artists Bing Davis, Renée Cox, Michaela Pilar Brown, and Colin Quashie. The latter two artists will discuss their works and creative processes as part of the “REMIX/REDUX” lecture and reception presented by the Friends of African American Art & Culture (FAAAC) on Feb. 16, at 6pm.
Clockwise from top left: Details from Renée Cox’s “Liberation of Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben”, Michaela Pilar Brown’s “Speak No”, Colin Quashie’s “Plantation Monopoly”, and Bing Davis’ “Ancestral Spirit Dance #568”.
“Our goal with “REMIX” was to raise awareness of contemporary African-American art and the mercurial yet magical nature of a ‘remixed’ methodology,” says Will South, CMA chief curator. “The acquisition of these phenomenal pieces helps these important and challenging conversations to continue.”
Among the four newly acquired works is “Ancestral Spirit Dance #568” by Willis “Bing” Davis of Dayton, OH. An artist and art educator who unabashedly looks to the distant past, Davis has created an ongoing series of sparkling pastels based on the high-energy patterns of African kente cloth made by the Asante peoples of Ghana and the Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo. Davis riffs on these patterns in the vein of a soloing musician, exploding them out into a riot of colorful abstraction.
Jamaican-American photographer Renée Cox draws inspiration from the history of women artists remixing images to make powerful statements about liberation, leadership, and revolution. In her elaborately staged photographic collage “Liberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben”, Cox herself assumes the identity of the superhero character Raje stridently leading the titular characters, who have shed their stereotypical caricatures, to freedom. Their pose directly references Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, arguably the most famous painting of the French Revolution.
Columbia artist Michaela Pilar Brown also uses photography to explore concepts of blackness and black femininity. Using her own body in combination with everyday objects, Brown creates vignettes that challenge conventional notions of race, feminism, and physicality. In “Speak No”, the arrangement of small plastic soldiers, rhinestones, and black paint on her head and face and the black Kewpie doll on her shoulder powerfully demonstrate the internal battle women of color often experience regarding their own beauty and self-worth.
Colin Quashie’s “Plantation Monopoly” was one of the most popular works of art in “REMIX”. A native Charlestonian, Quashie explores the well-known board game Monopoly and the historic plantation experience with wit and humor along with a large dose of criticism and irony. In repurposing something familiar and fun into a critique of the horrors of slavery, the piece commands the viewer’s undivided attention and then confronts that viewer with harsh historical realities that continue to resonate to this day. A fully functioning board game, “Plantation Monopoly” also provokes dialogue about the age-old question, “What is art?”
To further explore two of these fascinating works, the FAAAC presents “REMIX/REDUX”, a program featuring discussion between Brown and Quashie.
“I am extremely excited to sit in conversation with Colin Quashie,” says Brown. “He carries a sharp ax. He brings his sharp intellect, a deep understanding of history, and fearlessness to artmaking. His voice is essential at this moment in America’s story. The CMA’s acquisition of a seminal Quashie piece speaks to their commitment to addressing challenging ideas about contemporary American art. It’s good company to find myself in, and I’m thrilled to have this platform to engage in critical dialogue about artmaking, museum acquisitions, and inclusion.”
Porchia Moore, CMA consulting curator and Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Carolina, will moderate the program.
“The acquisition of these four works marks a significant purchase for the museum and the direction we will continue to take in our strategic strengthening of adding African-American work to our collection,” says Moore. “These four extraordinary artists each have a distinctive voice and style. A little provocative. A lot of truth. Some beauty. Some satire. Some pain. Each piece tells a story and invites you to truly participate in both the telling of that story and the listening of it. I think that this event featuring Michaela Pilar Brown and Colin Quashie is a wonderful way for us to celebrate the powerhouse visual artists of South Carolina and the work being created in the region which directly engages with and advances the art being created both in the Southeast and in the nation.”
All four works of art will go on view in the CMA’s future contemporary galleries.
For more information, visit (www.columbiamuseum.org/happenings).