September 9 – December 9, 2012
Biblical Images by African American Artists from the Jean and Robert E. Steele Collection and by African Artists from the Collection of the Society of African Missions and the Nicholas Bridger Collection
The exhibition explored how both African American and African artists have forged a vibrant, even divine energy that continues to re-fashion creation. Anti Ampofo’s work “Alkebu Lantu” exalts in a cup-like form the ancient indigenous name for Africa: “Garden of Eden” or womb of creation. A Jacob Lawrence work, “And God Created the Day and the Night and Put Stars in the Sky,” places center stage a preacher dramatically embodying and his congregation rapt in witnessing the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2. Numerous images relate Christ’s Nativity as a birth implicating abundance, nourishment and fulfillment. Other pieces attested to personal and societal rebirth, evident most powerfully through an active natural world that provokes human engagement. When subjected to political, social or religious oppression, believers find in the Exodus of the Israelites and the Crucifixion of Christ potent paths for liberation.
The artists of When God Created… challenged viewers to experience how faith shapes, maintains and yet also challenges cultural identity. The exhibition explores a recurrent issue raised by artists and scholars alike: the Eurocentric versus Afrocentric aesthetics of Christian imagery. That is particularly underscored by the inclusion of work from the Oye-Ekiti Workshop for Christian art, which flourished in Yorubaland (Nigeria) from 1947 to 1954.
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