Red Escape II
Arts of Africa
ART OF IDEAS
African art is conceptual art. In both form and use, it reveals sophisticated systems of knowledge, but rarely directly. These two seemingly unrelated works express hidden and poignant ideas about security and liberty.
An nkisi nkondi embodies defensive power and was used to protect a community. To complete this sculpture, a ritual expert placed potent ingredients associated with supernatural powers in the cavity carved into the figure’s abdomen. Nails and blades activated the spirit that was now accessible through the figure. This nkisi's pose, with hands on hips, symbolizes its readiness to defend the righteous and to destroy enemies.
In Viyé Diba's work, the piece of painted yellow wood, projecting between the seams of the woven canvas, and the abstract forms that suggest fleeing figures at the top evoke the possibility of liberation—from the literal plane of the canvas, from the strictures of painting and sculpture, or, perhaps, from the history of the city of Dakar itself, the site of a former way station in the trade of human captives. Diba's art is composed entirely of materials he found walking around Dakar.
Cotton strip cloth, paint, sand, wood, metal
This item is not on view
Gift of Elliot Picket, by exchange and Alfred T. White Fund
© Viyé Diba
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Viyé Diba (Senegalese, born 1954). Red Escape II, 1999. Cotton strip cloth, paint, sand, wood, metal
, 67 x 55 in. (170.2 x 139.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Elliot Picket, by exchange and Alfred T. White Fund, 2011.30. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2011.30_PS9.jpg)
overall, 2011.30_PS9.jpg., 2019
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A sculptural work, composed of strips of locally woven cotton cloth sewn together into a canvas, painted a rich red tone, with sand added to paint for textural depth. Six schematic shapes, of a rectangle with a triangle cut from one end, have been cut from cotton fabric and added in a row in the top of the canvas, painted yellow (a seventh shape is attached to the wood framing the work). A sculptural projection punctures the canvas at mid-level (attached to a wood cross-bar concealed in back), composed of cotton fabric and found wood, both painted yellow with sand texturing. The entire work is framed by pieces of found, weathered wood that have been assembled around the contour of the work.
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