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Eric Adjetey Anang is a Ghanaian sculptor and fantasy coffin carpenter. He was born in Teshie, Ghana, where he lives and runs the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, which was established by his grandfather. In 2001, he introduced Ghana fantasy coffins at Gidan Makama Museum Kano, Nigeria, under the auspices of Alliance Française in Kano. After completing his secondary school, he took over in 2005 the management of the studio that was established by Seth Kane Kwei, motivated by the ambition to "rise the name of his grandfather and see the world."
Anang has become one of Ghana's leading contemporary artists, recognized both locally and internationally. In 2009, his work was featured in a television commercial for Aquarius (sports drink). He was invited to the Black World Festival in Dakar as representative of designers from Ghana. Anang was a visiting artist in the UW–Madison Department of Art during the fall semester.
From the July–June 2015 Artscene
When the groundbreaking Tradition and Innovation: The Human Figure in Contemporary Chinese Art closes on July 5, and the paintings, drawings, sculpture, and video from the leading artists of China are packed into their enormous crates to be shipped back across the Pacific Ocean, seven of these stunning artworks will be staying in Madison to become part of the Chazen’s permanent collection. These acquisitions are more than just business transactions; they represent several years of forging relationships and building trust across very different cultures.
Su Xinping, Busy People No. 1 (2010)
“Think of a young person charging out of an MBA program to be a success and retire at age 40,” says Chazen Director Russell Panczenko. “According to discussions with the artist, that’s what this image of a person in a hurry represents.” The monumental painting—it measures over 8 by 8 feet—has been adopted by Asian art magazines as an emblem of the current Chinese art scene itself: dynamic, forward driven, in a hurry. Chinese artists are excited to have doors to the West opening, and are eager to dash through. But even if a viewer knows nothing about China, it is a powerful composition and audiences can react to it purely as a painting.
When Panczenko first saw the painting in 2012 he asked the artist if he would consider selling Busy People No. 1 to the Chazen. But Su Xinping demurred. “For a lot of Chinese artists, selling an artwork to the West means that it is lost to them,” says Panczenko. Su Xinping has one other painting in an American collection, at the San Francisco Museum of Fine Art. Acquisition of this painting provides an extraordinary opportunity for the students and faculty of the University as well as the citizens of Wisconsin to experience and study an artwork by an extremely influential Chinese artist.
Xiang Jing, “Are a Hundred Playing You? Or Only One?” (2007)
Panczenko first was drawn to Xiang Jing’s Mortals—Endless Tower (2011) when he visited her studio in 2012, and set about to try to acquire it. He was intrigued by the artist’s deliberate riff on Brancusi’s famous Endless Column, first conceived in 1918 as a symbol of the infinite sacrifice of Romanian soldiers in WWI. However, Xiang Jing’s column obviously differs from Brancusi’s in that her module is the human body, not an abstract geometric shape, but both suggest that the units might be endlessly piled one atop the other.
On his return to Beijing in 2014, Panczenko saw “Are a Hundred Playing You? Or Only One?” (2007), and had to make a difficult decision. “Are a Hundred Playing You is so much richer in terms of inspiration it provides the viewer. It offers multiple avenues for thought and discussion—for example, Chinese society and culture, the role of women, human psychology,” says Panzcenko. “Considering that we are a university museum, our collections must be responsive to as wide a variety of disciplines and approaches as possible.”
Two photographs and three drawings will also join the Chazen’s permanent collection as a result of the exhibition. Mood Is Never Better Than Memory–February (2010) and Now-ing (2011) are by Chi Peng, a young photographer who is perhaps China’s only prominent openly gay artist. In addition there are three small sketches by Geng Xue, which depict scenes from her stop-motion film Mr. Sea (2014). “Now we can provide students and community members with outstanding examples of the top art in contemporary China,” says Panczenko. “Contemporary Chinese art and culture can no longer be something we learn about second or third hand, but something we can experience for ourselves. Providing this direct experience of other times and other cultures is at the very heart of the Chazen’s mission.”
From the January–June 2015 Artscene
The Chazen Museum of Art is pleased to announce it has acquired Romare Bearden’s Circe (1977), a work featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey.
Shown in the Chazen’s Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries August 31–November 24, 2013, the work will return to the Chazen following the final destination of the exhibition, November 15, 2014–March 31, 2015, at the Miriam and Ira Wallach Gallery at Columbia University in New York City.
“Circe is a strong work despite its size,” said Chazen Director Russell Panczenko. “It has great aesthetic presence even over a distance.” Panczenko expressed the importance of this acquisition to the collection noting that Romare Bearden is one of the foremost African-American artists of the twentieth century and a major exponent of the Harlem Renaissance.
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Romare Bearden (1911–1988) moved north with his family to New York City during the Great Migration. Bearden took classes at the Art Students League in New York where he studied with German expatriate George Grosz. In 1935 Bearden earned a B.S. in education from New York University and joined the Harlem Artists Guild formed by sculptor Augusta Savage. After serving in the U.S. Army (1942 1945), Bearden traveled to France for a six-month stay with the support of the G.I. Bill. The early 1950s marked his foray into the collage work for which Bearden is primarily known.
In 1977, Bearden created a cycle of collages and watercolors based on Homer’s The Odyssey, a twenty-four-book poem that recounts the trials of Odysseus, the Greek hero of the Trojan War. In an interview, Bearden described the epic poem as universal1 and his richly allegorical and exquisitely colored series combines classical mythology with twentieth-century African-American culture. The pieces vary in size and format and the series is considered by critic John Russell to be Bearden’s extended homage to Henri Matisse.2
Circe references Homer’s description of the fair-haired goddess who turned Odysseus’ crew into pigs with the flick of her wand and a magical potion, however, Bearden’s re-interpretation maps onto this universal female the particular spirit-figure associated with southern African-American culture—the conjur woman.
The image of the conjur woman, whether in the form of Circe, Maudell Sleet, a blues singer, or the Obeah, is a recurrent subject through much of Bearden’s oeuvre. These powerful female figures represent magical specters of the past. Like Homer’s Circe, a conjur woman, according to Bearden, was an important and powerful figure called on to create potions and cure illnesses, and “much of her knowledge had been passed on through generations from an African past.”3
Circe illustrates garb worn by West African-trained priestesses. The skull may represent Circe’s deadly powers, but the snake coiled around her arm functions as a piece of jewelry that—like the goddess—is both fearful and beautiful.
When it returns to the Chazen in the spring, Circe will be available to view in the print room on request until a permanent display location is chosen.
1. Charles H. Rowell, “Inscription at the City of Brass”: An Interview with Romare Bearden, Callaloo 36 (Summer 1988): 433, quoted in Robert G. O’Meally, Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, exh. cat. (New York: DC Moore Gallery, 2007), 16. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name.
2. John Russell, “Art: Bearden from Homer to Henri,” New York Times, April 29, 1977 C22, quoted in Ruth Fine et al., The Art of Romare Bearden, exh. cat. (Washington: National Gallery of Art, in association with Harry H. Abrams, 2003), 88.
3. Romare Bearden, “Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings,” Leonardo 2, no. 1 (January 1969): 17, quoted in Fine et al., The Art of Romare Bearden, 36.
From the July–December 2014 Artscene
Noh is the masked theater of Japan, symbolic and serious, though the acts of Noh plays are often separated by with comic kyogen scenes. The Noh stage is nearly bare, though it traditionally has a pine tree painted on its back wall, so the two main actors and a chorus carry the weight of the performance. The masks of Noh are worn by the actors playing the main characters, and along with their sumptuous costumes, help identify the most important roles of the drama. Though actors playing adult men do not wear masks, there are traditional masks for the parts of women, old men, gods, and animals.
The mask in the Chazen’s collection is for the Shishiguchi character. In The Stone Bridge, an important play of the Noh theater, often reserved as the grand finale of a daylong series of performances, this mask is worn by the actor portraying the lion who is the messenger of the Bodhisattva. Shishiguchi stands at the foot of the bridge to the Buddhist Pure Land, and performs a dance that is at once highly spirited and traditionally structured. The role requires a seasoned performer, and is a rite of passage for actors. The mask’s expression is fierce, with its roaring mouth and large fangs, and its broad nose and furrowed brow are reminiscent of Chinese dragon imagery that influence generations of Japanese artists. In performance it would have been accompanied by a long, red, mane-like wig, and a broad, imposing costume.
The Chazen will display its Shishiguchi mask in the niche between galleries 14 and 15. For its inauguration into the collection the mask will be flanked by prints by Kogyo, a late-nineteenth century Japanese artist who specialized in images of the Noh stage.
From the January–June 2014 Artscene
John Buck is a printmaker and sculptor whose work has been grounded in wood carving throughout his career. Known for his woodblock prints, bronze sculptures made from wood maquettes, and more recently, wooden kinetic sculptures, Buck straddles the categories of 2D and 3D in the Chazen’s recently acquired wood relief Cityscape of 1997. In his wood panels, the artist uses laminated Malaysian jelutong wood as his primary material, which is a soft wood that shows chisel and gouge marks on the surface, evoking the rippling effect of water and giving the piece the handmade look reminiscent of traditional folk art. The artist writes:
"The carved surfaces of the panels are reminiscent of Pacific Northwest and Native American architectural frontispieces. The rigid nature of the wood panel also allows me to cut holes in the surface with saws to create shadow boxes and niches that, once painted, create an ambiguous space into which other objects can be placed that can be sometimes graphic and sometimes contemplative. Specific images within these spaces offer up random as well as specific kinds of association. The organic nature of the material is complemented by contrasting brilliant and somber painted colors."
Cityscape combines images that refer to culture, science, and the built environment and its relationship to mankind and nature.
Born in Ames, Iowa, John Buck received a BFA degree from Kansas City Art Institute in 1968 and in 1971 studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The following year he received an MFA degree from the University of California, Davis. He taught sculpture at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, from 1976 to 1990, and resides in Montana with his wife, the artist Deborah Butterfield.
From the January–June 2014 Artscene
The museum’s permanent collection of contemporary glass has been growing with the annual addition of several notable works by the leading artists working in glass today. The Chazen recently acquired pieces by three American glass artists: Michael Glancy, Karen LaMonte, and Andy Paiko.
Michael Glancy’s career is characterized by a sustained study of historical glass, a dedication to technological innovation and the exploration of materials, as well as an engagement in the investigation of natural macro- and micro-environments. Pax-MAD Bashar refers in its title to contemporary world events and to the artist’s anti-war sentiments combining the Latin word for peace, the acronym for “Mutually Assured Destruction," and a reference to the conflict in Syria. The work’s high-relief metal surface is meant to evoke bombs exploding and the human destruction that results.
Czech Republic-based artist Karen LaMonte is known for her kiln-cast, full-scale glass dresses, which push technological limits and have established her as an innovative glass artist. Her work is a tour-de-force of material and light that reflects rich cultural meanings and illuminates human experience. Informed by a seven-month fellowship in Japan, LaMonte created a group of kimonos in different cast materials through which she comments on Japanese traditions. She applied her long-standing interest in the body and clothing as metaphor for the role of the individual in society—vulnerable interior versus protective exterior—to the Japanese cultural context. The kimono is a garment that constricts the female body and erases the individual’s identity in its goal of creating a perfect cylindrical form that embodies the aesthetic of group conformity. The title of this piece, Hanako, is an archetypal name for girls, which also means “flower girl.”
Andy Paiko, whose independent glassblowing practice is based in Portland, Oregon, works in traditional Venetian techniques and other methods to create works that question the relationship of form and function. Optic Twist Screen #2 is an assemblage of variously shaped glass globes strung on metal cables that are secured in three vertical rows within three steel-framed panels. This piece is a free-standing elaboration of a interior design commission Paiko created for an office environment that provided both a visually and acoustically permeable space divider. The additive process allows Paiko to create such large-scale complex works.