WARRENSBURG — The University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, McClure Archives Museum is showing “Art and Identity” an exhibition of traditional African Art from Jan. 11 to March 18.
This exhibition is based on the importance of understanding African art as a form of communicative expression as well as a historic identity of its numerous diverse cultures. The display features over 70 works from Western and Central African selected from the personal collection of Brian and Kristi Nickl. Mr. Nickl noted his interest began as a student at UCM when he discovered such movements like Cubism and Primitivism were developed from African sculpture.
“The two styles were developed by utilizing various forms of African art and incorporating their aesthetics with a post Impressionist demeanor,” he said. “African art had facilitated a departure from Naturalism, which previously dominated 19th century art, and Cubism proved to be one of the most influential movements in Modern art”
This new insight launched a life long study of this mysterious art form and it’s continued influence on Western art. It wasn’t long before Nickl realized that although such movements like Cubism and Primitivism had elevated the status of African Art, there still was no consideration for the historical or cultural purpose of these works, nor for the artists who created them. “The true purpose and intentions where overlooked. These artifacts were never created for art purposes, but as visual tools to communicate important religious or social values”.
From an anthropologist’s perspective, Nickl values the ritual and utilitarian use of the objects and how they served a function in cultural society. As an artist, he collects African art for its expressive power, form and visual aesthetic.
“Conceivably one of the greatest things we can gain from this display is the knowledge and understanding of cultures contrary to our own” he said.
The purpose of the exhibition is to not only enlighten students and the surrounding community, but also foster the appreciation of Africa’s diverse ethnicities and cultural arts.
Some highlights of the display include a superb Srala gold necklace, which demonstrates the degree of sophistication evident in Akan metallurgy. Since the casting molds used can never be recycled, this lost wax method ensures that every bead is a unique original. Another more unusual and rare work is a Ngbandi basketry shield formerly of the Marc Leo Felix Collection. The unique construction of this armament has not been practiced since the turn of the century and no field photographs exist to record this lost process.
The exhibit is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Release courtesy of Brian Nickl