Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora

Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora

November 17, 2007—April 13, 2008

Location: Bloch Building, Gallery L8

What is the status of contemporary African art and art of the diaspora in the international art scene? It has arrived—dynamic and challenging—infusing the global art world with vitality. In 2007, for the first time, Africa was well represented in the world’s most famous international art exhibition, the Venice Biennale. Six artists in that exhibition are also part of Tapping Currents at the Nelson-Atkins.

Tapping Currents participates in the evolving discourse related to African art by presenting the work of these artists in Kansas City. The exhibition includes art in the Project Space and a series of eight new media works screened in Atkins Auditorium.

Tapping Currents includes the work of artists from Africa and especially the diaspora, who are from widely divergent backgrounds. Whether living in Africa or beyond its borders, each artist has chosen the cultural context in which to create. Identity is no longer exclusively linked to one’s country of origin, but, instead, to how one understands the self through intellectual and psychological processes. Yinka Shonibare, one of the artists in this exhibition, calls himself a “post-colonial hybrid.”

This art is not homogeneous. It is a variable phenomenon. Tapping Currents accentuates the uniqueness of each work of art, celebrating the artist’s freedom of expression. Several themes do emerge. The artists convey an interest in aesthetic issues and formal concerns—line, shape, color, rhythm and pattern. Some use cutting-edge technology to create new media art, while others find the patterned qualities of digital imagery to be a source of inspiration. The artists investigate colonialism and post-colonialism, slavery, trade, history, gender and identity. Humor and irony call attention to Western misperceptions of what is authentically African and the art encompasses a broad range of expression related to African traditions. Although sometimes acknowledging tragedies of the past and unpleasant realities of the present there presides, in the art of Tapping Currents, a spirit of hope for the future.

Free admission, no exhibition tickets required.

Gallery Installation
New Media Screenings


This exhibition is supported by the Campbell-Calvin Fund and the Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions. Midwest Airlines is the official airline sponsor.

Image: Odili Donald Odita. Fusion, 2006. Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. From Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art & the Diaspora.

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