Useable Art: African Aesthetics in Daily Life from the UM Lowe Art Museum

Unique forms, patterns, and craftsmanship on display

Coral Gables (September 27, 2010) — Some never before seen works will be on exhibit as part of Useable Art: African Aesthetics in Daily Life from the UM Lowe Art Museum. Most African art serves a function – spiritual if not utilitarian, or often both. The containers, textiles, tools, and assorted furnishings presented in this exhibition consists of objects that provide some purpose of daily living that can be relatively easily recognized by non-Africans. They can also be appreciated for the appeal of their forms, the beauty of their patterns, and the quality of craftsmanship they display.

The works are to be on view from November 13, 2010 – January 16, 2011. A preview reception will be held on November 12, 2010 from 8-10 pm. The Curator’s lecture will be presented on Sunday, January 16 at 2 pm.

The Lowe’s extensive holdings of African art include not only ceremonial masks and ritual figures but also many objects made for use in daily life. This exhibition will showcase a selection of the finest containers, textiles, tools, home furnishings and other useful objects – very few of which have ever been displayed. The curator’s concern has been to demonstrate a consistent and recognizably African aesthetic dominating “crafts” just as it does figurative and ritual art.

Unlike the masks and figures used in rituals and whose significance can be fully appreciated only by the initiated, the pottery, textiles, leatherwork and other hand crafted objects presented can be almost immediately understood. It takes only an additional word or two to distinguish a water jar, for instance, from a pot used to prepare cassava.

The works in this exhibition can be appreciated for the immediate appeal of their forms, the beauty of their patterns, and the quality of craftsmanship they display. The distinctive, insistently handmade-ness, the unmistakable delight in the nature of the material, the sense of touching, manipulating it, and the still visible traces of the creative process are all characteristically African. These containers, textiles, tools, and assorted furnishings speak across cultures in a satisfying aesthetic language we can all appreciate even if we do not understand every nuance. No single word, such as “art” or “craft” seems adequate; Africans themselves do not employ such Western categories. Excellence of design has a universal and timeless appeal that is further enhanced by the patina of use and the venerability of age.

Even today, when mass produced wares, clothing, and tools are readily available in African markets and stores, there continues to be a local demand for and appreciation of handmade useful objects from traditional artisans who often have outstanding regional reputations as individuals or who work in respected family or shop contexts. African consumers still buy in their local marketplaces works that are aesthetically appealing, intimately satisfying, and usefully appropriate in ways that foreign wares can never be.

Usable Art is organized by the Lowe Art Museum and is sponsored in part by The State of Florida and the African Art Endowment.

The Lowe Art Museum is located at the University of Miami at 1301 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables. Gallery and Museum Store hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10-4; Sunday: 12-4; Monday: Closed. Regular Admission (not including special events) is $10; $5 for Seniors and Non-UM Students; Free for Lowe Art Museum Members, University of Miami students, faculty and staff, and children under 12. For more information, call (305) 284-3535 or visit http://www.lowemuseum.org.

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RELATED EVENTS

EXHIBTIONS PREVIEW
Friday, November 12, 2010, 7-10 PM

The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper
and
Useable Art: African Aesthetics in Daily Life
Lecture presented by Harmon and Harriet Kelley: 7 PM
Reception: 8 - 10 PM

ANNUAL ART BASEL CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH
Sunday, December 5, 2010

Artist Lecture by Alison Saar: 9:30 AM at Storer Auditorium, UM School of Business
Brunch: 10 AM- NOON at the Lowe Art Museum
This extraordinary event is hosted by LAM Director, Brian Dursum. On view are the temporary exhibitions, The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African-American Art: Works on Paper and Usable Art: African Aesthetics in Daily Life from the UM Lowe Art Museum. An artist lecture will be presented by multi-media sculptor Alison Saar at 9:30 am in Storer Auditorium located at the UM School of Business. Event sponsored by Stella Holmes and Overseas Partners Realty, Inc.
This event is open to the public, but RSVP is requested as space is limited.
For more information or to RSVP, contact the Lowe Art Museum at 305.284.3603

FAMILY DAY
Sunday, December 12, 2010, 1 PM

Celebrate the exhibitions, The Kelley Collection of African American Art and Useable Art: African Aesthetics in Daily Life with a performance of African Drum and Dance by Sasa African Dance Theatre. Explore the galleries with a family scavenger hunt and enjoy an art activity after the performance.
Admission: Lowe members: Adults free; $5 children; non-members: $5 Adults; $10 children (children under 3 are free)

CURATOR LECTURE
Sunday, January, 16, 2011, 2 PM

Presented by Dr. Marci Wittmer


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University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of our diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.