Friday, December 2, 2011

December 2

Ruben Gerardo Ubiera Gonzalez  was born October 19, 1975 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic  and is a Dominican neo-figurative artist. Ruben paints and draws in a style he calls urban-pop. Most of his inspiration is derived from the interactivity between man and his urban environment. After moving to Bronx, NY at the age of fifteen the graffiti around him heavily influenced him. In his work he strives to capture parts of his past, present and his subjects using line and form. Ruben’s work includes still-life and situational portraiture but focuses on city landscapes.
Ruben’s work seems to mainly focus on the contemporary as it relates to his surroundings.  As mentioned before most if not all of his work comes from his urban surroundings and reflects that life style. There is no sign of traditional imagery but you get a sense that his subject matter is mostly African-Americans if not all of it. In his bio he says his work is geared towards social commentary and human struggle. Just looking at some of his portraits you get a strong sense of that struggle in facial expressions and imagery.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nov. 4th

This week we read three different articles. “Art, Identity, Boundaries: Postmodernism, and Contemporary African Art” by Olu Oguibe. “African Art and Authenticity: A text with a Shadow” by Sidney Kasfir, and Hendonism, masquerade, carnivalesque and power.

I was unable to attend class on Thursday for discussion but, interpreted and understood the articles the best I could. The article by Kasfir caught my attention the most and dealt with the idea of Authenticity. While reading the article many questions arose to me about what makes something authentic? Is it the time period in which it was created? Kasfir’s article discusses the before and after scenario of colonialism. This meaning art made before the mid nineteenth century before it was (tainted by western intervention) as the article put it. The quote that got me thinking in the Kasfir article was “It would be said to lack integrity, implying that somehow nontraditional artist have detached themselves from their cultures and that their work is therefore inauthentic.” From what this article has presented in leaves me wondering where do the boundaries lye of authentic or inauthentic and is it appropriate so say it depends on the context in which the piece is presented and taken from.

In the Oguibe article the sentence “In each case, the gaze is deflected onto utopia, onto the significance of the other.” This quote was referring to how work that is being done is being attributed to a tribe as a whole not to the individual artist that created it and by doing so we lose the narrative behind the piece of artwork and directed to their backgrounds. What I took from this article was that when we look at African art or any other art that is foreign to us we are often looking at the racial side of the work rather than the narrative and what the artist is trying to convey. We see the skin color or stereotypes that we have attached to that particular group of people and make up our own assumptions or narrative based on their background.
Over all I think the message that these articles were trying to convey was we need to be more aware of the individuality of the work were viewing and not tag it with stereotypes and assumptions when we don’t necessarily understand what’s being presented.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Others....

This week we read to articles “Mami Wata Shrines” by Henry John Drewal, and “Imaging Otherness in Ivory” by Suzanne Blier. In each of these articles they described this idea of “the others.” This idea being a foreign culture to another and how they were being depicted to understand them better.

In Blier’s article three peoples were being depicted the Beni, Sapi, and Kongo. Each of them had their own depiction of the “others” in the article “the others” are the Portuguese. All though they all had a similar theme about the Portuguese their interpretations varied. The beni associated the Portuguese with Olokun who was the wealthy god of the sea and the undead. Works of art done by the Beni are linking these ideas. Many of the plaques and other artwork depict this other with oval eyes long hair and mudfish.

The Kongo and Sapi associated them with the undead as well. The Kongo associated there spiral forms and crown hats with the path of the underworld. These cultures also notice the cross that they were wearing which have long been around before they showed up. The cross being very similar to the cross roads was a reinforcement of their spiritual context. The x-shape to the Sapi was as Blier puts it “the conflation of spiritual and earthly realms, particularly the regeneration of the dead among the living.” As for the Benin they saw it as political and religious signifiers. Although their interpretations varied of the Portuguese they all had a similar theme and that was the relationship between life and death and controlling those worlds of power.

During class we began discussing this idea of how others cultures have influenced ours. Many example were thrown out and I think one of the best examples that was brought up was the Americanizing of food. When you go to a restaurant there are many choices and those choices are from different cultures. Have you ever been to three different restaurants, ordered the same meal and each one tasting and looking completely different? I think this idea can relate back to what the articles were discussing. We saw something but then we related it to our culture so that it would be better understood. In this case the food is being altered to fit American tastes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hatian art

This week in class we focused on Haitian art and the practice of Vodou.  Vodou is the religion of eighty percent of Haiti and is nothing like Voodoo that we think of in America. While learning about Vodou this week I noticed many similarities to other peoples of Africa.
The Vodou religion is a complicated but intriguing religion. The McCarthy Brown essay even calls the relations between the living and the vodou spirits a complex web. The essay focuses on a Woman name mama Lola and her practices of Vodou as a mambo (Vodou priest). Through these practices she summons the Vodou spirits for insight and wisdom.  In the videos we watched they also talked about this possession and it reminded me of some of the other peoples we have studied this year. The first few weeks of class when we discussed Ghanaian art and Nani visited and performed dances for us. He also discussed how through these dances the spirits would possess them. Another thing that came to mind was Herbert Cole’s essay, “ I am not myself” Cole discusses masquerades  and discusses the mask wearers being possessed by the spirits. This seems to be a recurring idea in African art and culture. In Hatian Vodou like many of the other groups and practices we have studied there have been many recurring themes.  The Idea of the cross roads has come up a few time just recently in our study of Hatian art but also when we discussed about the Yoruba using it during divinations. One final thing that came to mind while watching the video they were making sacrifices using chickens and goats. This brought to mind the Boli from the Bamana. The Boli also has this idea of scarification attached to it.
Although many of these groups are different have very different practices and beliefs they still share a lot of the same ideas.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yoruba spiritual beliefs

Yoruba visual culture communicates the cosmology and spiritual beliefs in many ways.The Egungun masquerades are associated with the venerations of ancestors while altar bowls like the Olumeye Alter Bowl to honor and respect the gods and spiritual ideas.
Like most African cultures the Yoruba use shrines to interact with deities and spirits. sculptural forms in this case the Olumeye Alter Bowl are added to shrines as gifts. This particular bowl was created for the altar of an orisha. The bowl depicts a female figure supporting the bowl as a messenger to the orisha. many other important ideas could also be derived from this piece. the woman is carrying a child on her back along with another at her side this could possibly represent twin which happen to be important in Yoruba culture. also on top four female figures are dancing. One might also look at the symbol on the side of the bowl as the crossroads.
The Egungun Masquerades are performed to communicate with the spirit world rather than be perceived as a static sculptural entity. Many Yoruba associate this masquerade with the veneration of ancestors. Some egungun masquerades impersonate the spirit of the recently departed to ensure everything is in order before crossing to the spirit world. Engungen are identified with specific families and play a regulating role in that family. This serves as a link between the living and the dead.
Although both of these things portraying cosmological and spiritual beliefs they are representing two very different ideas one dealing with ancestors and their spirits while the other deals with the aspect of gods and offering them gifts.