The Cooper Gallery spring 2018 exhibition features an interpretive version of the remarkable installation, ReSignifications, by our guest curator, Awam Ampka.
ReSignifications was originally presented in 2015 at New York University’s Villa La Pietra in Florence, Italy as part of “Black Portraiture[s] II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories.”
ReSignifications links classical and popular representations of African bodies in European art, culture and history as it interprets and interrogates the “Blackamoor” trope in Western culture that emerged at the intersection of cross-cultural encounters shaped by centuries of migration, exchange, conquest, servitude, and exile.
The installation includes contemporary artists who respond to the artists and designers of yore, and infuse inert objects of art with voice and presence across the ages.
About the Curator
is a curator of visual and performing arts. He recently curated Lines, Motions and Rituals in New York, Significaciones in Havana, Cuba, ReSignifications in Florence, Italy and the international traveling exhibition Africa: See You, See Me. Trained as a dramatist, documentary filmmaker and scholar of theatre and film, he teaches Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Africana Studies and Social and Cultural Analysis in NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
"This exhibition started from this object you see here: the blackamoors. And New York University inherited a lot of them in its campus in Florence, and as an American university that inherited all of these artworks, the question is: What do you do with them? You can’t erase the fact that this history happened. Let’s resignify them. Let’s move from the objectification of these bodies into these bodies as subjects of art. And then I invited some artists in residence to come to the museum and produce responses to these Blackamoor statues."
-Awam Amkpa on the Spring 2018 exhibition, "ReSignifications"
Message from the Curator:
“My color does not disfigure my honor or my wit.” – Alfonso Alvares
ReSignifications links classical and popular representations of African bodies in European art, culture and history. It moderates and subverts artistic conventions by using the works of contemporary artists from Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean to engage in dialogue with the broad historical array of ornamental representations of African bodies. The artists in this exhibition speak against the background of the connected histories of Europe and Africa, and the African Diasporas. Starting from the ubiquitous model of decorative art known as the “Blackamoor,” ReSignifications confronts the representation of African bodies in various forms of service–as domestic servants, courtiers, soldiers, priests, and others–with audacious presentations of such bodies as protagonists of histories and cultures. The exhibition across three venues combines styles across time and place to reframe and refract the history of representing African and African diasporic bodies. The unusual juxtaposition of these works gives the exhibition its texture and flavor, thereby underscoring the words of Giambattista Marino (1569-1625): “Nera sì, ma se' bella.” (“Black yes, but so beautiful”).
~ Awam Amkpa