LOOKING BOTH WAYS
at PEM

Yinka Shonibare & David P. Bradley

Scramble for Africa Pueblo Feast Day by David Bradley

Caption (Left Image): Scramble for Africa, 2000, by Yinka Shonibare. 14 figures,
14 chairs, table, overall dimensions: 132 x 488 x 280 cm.
Commissioned by the Museum for African Art, NY, Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Caption (Right Image): Pueblo Feaset Day, 1997, David P. Bradley, White Earth Ojibwe, Acrylic on canvas, PEM Collections

Scramble for Africa by Yinka Shonibare and Pueblo Feast Day by David Bradley have several things in common.  They share subject matter – people interacting around a table – and they exercise similar liberties with reality to create witty and aesthetically pleasing works. Both artists use the art element of color and the art principle of balance to present complicated scenes with layers of meaning. By balancing the various art elements in pleasing arrangements the artists draw our attention to the events in general rather than emphasizing any single aspect.
 
The colors in each work are generally the same saturation so the values are similar. No single color or part of the art work stands out or dominates the composition. It is possible to move your eye around both works at a steady rate and pause to examine details without being repeatedly drawn to a dominant element. In Scramble for Africa the neutral, relatively plain brown table top with the map in the center contrasts with the various similar color patterns of the clothing on the figures that are seated around the table. In Pueblo Feast Day the figures are drawn together and framed by the pattern rug below, the curtained window scene above and the surrounding plain texture of the wood floor and walls.
 
The balanced and contrasted textures are supported by a balanced arrangement of the figures in space. In Scramble for Africa, the figures’ arms and their torso orientations intertwine in the gentle, undulating lines of an imaginary braid that encircles the table. In Pueblo Feast Day, pairs of figures address and interact with one another in a symmetrical arrangement. In the center of the work the largest light value shape, the masked Lone Ranger, draws the viewer in by looking back out of the scene.

RESOURCES

Scramble for Africa - This title refers to the 1884-5 Berlin Conference, an international meeting aimed at settling the problems connected with the European colonization of Africa. Representatives of all the European nations, the United States and the Ottoman Empire met in Berlin, ostensibly to guarantee free trade and navigation on the Congo and Niger Rivers. The agreement ultimately proved too vague to be viable and is often considered to be the reason for many of Africa’s present difficulties.

Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962 and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at age three. He now lives and works in London. He has taught at various institutions of higher learning and has an international exhibition record. Shonibare’s work is often multimedia and includes photographs of a tableau in which he dresses up and poses.

Looking Both Ways- Art of the African Diaspora edited by Laurie Ann Farrell, published by the Museum for African Art
Family Ties: A Contemporary Perspective by Trevor Fairbrother, published by the Peabody Essex Museum

Related Web Links: 1 | 2 | 3

Pueblo Feast Day is a Native American spiritual dance celebration of gratitude, honoring past, present and future abundance. The Indians dance to be “heard" by the spirits so that all may sustain the remaining harmony in the world. It is a centuries-old tradition that occurs rain or shine. The public is generally welcome at these colorful dances and may be invited into celebrants’ homes to share food.

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David Bradley was born in 1954 and is White Earth Ojibwa and Mdewakaton Dakota’s best-known painter. Now living in the southwest, he is noted for his sense of humor and satirical subject matter. In addition to painting contemporary Indian times in both modern and traditional styles, Bradley is a founder of the Center for the (Native American Indian) Spirit, in San Francisco. He is also the only artist to ever have taken the top awards in both the painting and sculpture categories at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Bradley was the leading artist and motivator in getting New Mexico, which operates the largest Indian art-craft market in the world, to pass a state law protecting Indian art and artists from the “Indian” art fakes that were (and still are, to a degree) being sold. This led to a national campaign and the 1990 passage of a federal law making it a felony to market as "Indian" works by persons not tribally enrolled.
 
David Bradley Artist’s Statement
“To me, art is war. I see my life as an artist as a modern counterpart to a warrior’s existence. According to my translation, selling my art is hunting, something that I do to survive. Having shows in galleries is like stealing ponies. It affords material wealth and prestige. Being chosen to show in museums and penetrating the mass media represents, to me, honors won in battle, such as counting coup or killing an enemy.  Yet, just as I would not enter into a war because of my skill at or enjoyment of battle, I do not create art because I like it or because I’m necessarily any good at it. I do it because it involves my freedom. This freedom is my ability to express the wonders, horrors and overall richness of reality as I perceive it. So, instead of killing, I communicate. Victory comes when I convey the deepening conception of inter-relatedness feel between all things; between people and peoples, the environment, the cosmos and myself. When I reveal that bond, I strengthen that bond.”

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Art Elements and Principles
Six art elements can be thought of as the building blocks artists use in forming an art work. Seven art principles that organize the “blocks” can be thought of as the construction methods.

Elements - The building blocks
1. LINE A mark/stoke longer than it is wide: straight/curved, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and thick/thin.
2. COLOR What we see when light is reflected or absorbed by surfaces: saturated/diluted and warm/cool.
3. VALUE (Luminance) Degree of lightness or darkness of colors: tint(light)/shade(dark)
4. TEXTURE Appearance of surfaces both represented (2D) or physical (3D): smooth/rough, glossy/flat, undulating/jagged, and transparent/opaque.
5. SHAPE (2D) FORM (3D) Area defined by lines, colors, values and textures: geometric/organic, soft/hard and sharp/smooth.
6. SPACE Distance or area between lines or shapes: deep/shallow, crowded/empty, and grounded/floating.

Principles - The construction method
1. UNITY Each element in art work is necessary, none can be left out with out changing the work significantly.
2. BALANCE Even distribution/arrangement of elements in an art work.
3. DOMINANCE One element is given more importance than other elements in an art work.
4. REPETITION Use of an element(s) more than once in more than one way in an art work.
5. RYTHYM Arrangement in an art work of element(s) in an ordered sequence to create/suggest motion.
6. CONTRAST Use of opposite elements (see parings above) in close proximity.
7. VARIATION Incremental changes in any element(s), especially a dominant element in an art work.

Saturation refers to the strength of a color, the purity of a hue, or the degree of freedom from additions of white and is another way of referring to the value of a color.

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