Thursday, January 26, 2017

African Stories - An Art Exhibition

Aude Minart, proprietor of the itinerant gallery La Galerie Africaine, has kicked off 2017 with a fantastic showing of contemporary African art at Mu-Gallery in the 9th arrondissement.

Mu-Gallery façade
© Discover Paris!

The exhibition, called Récits d'Afrique (African Stories), features the work of Wolé Lagunju, Gonçalo Mabunda, and Lea Lund and Erik K.

Récits d'Afrique invitation cards
© Discover Paris!

Wolé Lagunju marries Yoruba ceremony with the regalia of European royalty by coupling Gelede masks with fashions from the Dutch Golden Age and England's Elizabethan Era. Using the tradition of portraiture, he redefines the mask as an object in constant evolution and in dialogue with contemporary times.

Study of a Coiffure Doll
Wolé Lagunju
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Ingenue (left) and Belle (right)
Wolé Lagunju
2016 Oil on canvas (both works)
© Discover Paris!

Lagunju hails from Nigeria and currently lives in North Carolina.

Gonçalo Mabunda is a Mozambican artist who grew up during his country's brutal, 15-year civil war. He learned to solder and to work with bronze and other metals at the atelier of a South African artist. Returning to Mozambique, he used these techniques to create works for the "Arms into Art" project. He fashions thrones from bullets, guns, artillery, and other weapons, inciting the viewer to reflect on the means through which leaders obtain and retain power.


Throne
Gonçalo Mabunda
Arms and munitions
© Discover Paris!

Mabunda currently resides in Mozambique. His work was displayed at the Venise Biennial in 2015. One of his thrones has a place in the permanent collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The works that most captured my attention at this exhibition are the photographs created by Lea Lund and Erik K.

Erik K. and Lea Lund
© Discover Paris!

Swiss-born Lea Lund and Zaire-born Erik K. (né Erik Kongolo-Mabika) met in Lausanne in July 2011. Both are visual arts - Lund is a photographer, painter, sculptor and graphic artist and K. is an engraver and designer.

The first time she met K., Lund says she asked him to allow her to photograph him. She says they have been inseparable ever since.

The photographs in African Stories feature K. in various stances and stages of movement against a backdrop of magnificent architectural structures in cities throughout Europe. He is always impeccably dressed in the style that he has cultivated from a very young age. (K. designed the hat that he wears in the photos.)

Erik, Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris, September 2015
© Lea Lund & Erik K.
Image by Discover Paris!

This photograph of Erik at the Tiger and Turtle - Magic Mountain in Duisburg, Germany hangs in the window of the gallery. It faces the street so passersby can admire it.

Erik, Duisburg, Germany, June 2015
© Lea Lund & Erik K.

Occasionally, Lund selects natural environments as the setting for these photos. She retouches them by hand, giving them a weathered, vintage look.

Erik, Coney Island, NY 2014
© Lea Lund & Erik K.
Image by Discover Paris!

Erik, Saint-Tropez, 2014
© Lea Lund & Erik K.
Image by Discover Paris!

From haunting and riveting to whimsical and fanciful, these works will not fail to intrigue.

Lund and K. divide their time between Paris and Lausanne. They anticipate opening a studio in Paris' 11th arrondissement in 2017.

Originally scheduled to close on January 29, African Stories has been extended until Wednesday, February 1.

Entry is free.

Mu Gallery
53 rue Blanche
75009 Paris
Metro: Blanche (Line 2)
Telephone for Aude Minart: 06 60 24 06 26
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 12 noon to 7 PM; Sundays by appointment

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The 369th Experience

Last Tuesday, Tom and I gave a presentation called "African-American Presence in the City of Light" at Adrian Leeds' well-known monthly Parler Paris event.

Slide from presentation
© Adrian Leeds

Tom spoke about the Entrée to Black Paris tour that he created - Black History in and around the Luxembourg Garden. Because he begins the walk with stories about how James Reese Europe and the 369th Infantry Regiment (better known as the Harlem Hellfighters) introduced jazz to France during World War I, he talked about Europe at some length during the Parler Paris presentation.

James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Later during the afternoon, another invited speaker shared some fascinating information about the 369th Infantry Regiment with the audience. Stephany Neal told us that the infantry's band is going to be recreated as part of a series of events endorsed by the World War I Centennial Commission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I!

Stephany Neal at Parler Paris
© Adrian Leeds

Students from 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities across America will be selected to join the band through a competitive search and audition. They will perform in a series of national and international programs and musical events to honor the men who fought during the war. Proposed international performances in France will retrace the 369th campaign with concerts in Brest, Argonne, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Champagne, Vosges, Metz, and yes, PARIS.

The project is an educational initiative that includes master classes conducted by celebrity guest performing artists. Dr. Julian E. White, retired director of the Florida A&M University Marching 100 band, will recreate the 369th's complete repertoire for the project.

369th Experience Press Packet
© Adrian Leeds

Another proposed production for the initiative is a traveling exhibition of WWI paintings and military ephemera. Works by African-American artists such as Henry O. Tanner, Palmer Hayden, Nancy Prophet, Loïs Mailou Jones, and Albert Alexander Smith will be displayed. The military ephemera belong to the collection of Alan Laird, an African-American Vietnam War veteran. Items in the collection include historical records, vintage photographs, war art, and vintage print media.

The McDowell County Museum Commission (Kimball World War One Memorial) and S&D Consulting Services are organizing The 369th Experience. To learn more about it, visit the Web site at www.369Experience.com or call 1-855-GIVE 369 (1-855-448-3369).


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Soul Food in Paris

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the mention of soul food in Paris conjured up images of Leroy Haynes in the kitchen at his restaurant on rue Clauzel or of happy diners crowded around tables at Bojangles (Sharon Leslie Morgan - owner) or Percy's Place (Percy Taylor - owner).

Leroy Haynes in the kitchen at
Haynes' Restaurant
Screenshot from Ina.fr video

Bojangles façade
© Discover Paris!

Percy Taylor in front of Percy's Place
© Discover Paris!

All of these establishments closed in the 2000s.

Today, the "soul food" moniker is making a comeback at the following Paris eateries:
  • New Soul Food
  • Gumbo Yaya Soul Food Waffle House
  • Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitchen
A few additional establishments include a single "soul food" item on their menu.

But is what these businesses serve really soul food, as Americans think of it?

New Soul Food is a food truck that serves Afro-European and Afro-Caribbean fusion cuisine. It can frequently be found at the MK2 Bibliothèque in the 13th arrondissement, near the National Library. The only thing on their menu that looks remotely like food from the American South is sweet potatoes, and they are described as being sauteed with Afro-Caribbean herbs.

New Soul Food food truck
Image from New Soul Food Web site

Sojourner Ahébée, the Wells International Foundation's 2016 summer intern, visited Gumbo Yaya last August and tried their chicken and waffles. Comparing the fried chicken to what her maternal grandmother Sallie McBride from North Carolina makes, she declared Gumbo Yaya's version to be authentic and good (though not as good as her grandma's)!

Gumbo Yaya façade
© Sojourner Ahébée

As for Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitchen, it calls itself a soul food bistrot, where its clientele can discover the classics of African-American cuisine. Their menu includes fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, crispy fried fish, rice and beans, and cornbread and they advertise that you can enjoy hip hop, jazz, and soul music there. From what I've seen on Facebook (they do not yet have a Web site), they are doing quite well. They apparently don't take reservations and more than one person has complained of not being able to get a table.

Mama Jackson Soul Food Kitche
Mama Jackson press image

I've not had the opportunity to visit any of these places, but I'm definitely going to try them over the next several weeks to months. When I do, I'll be sure to post my reviews here!

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Kehinde Wiley at the Petit Palais

When I wrote about the black images in European art at the Petit Palais in late 2015, I never dreamed that I'd be able to write an article about an exhibition of works by a person of African descent being shown at the same institution. So I am pleased to be able to report on the Kehinde Wiley exhibition, Lamentation, that is currently on display.

Much of the press about the show, and even the information presented at the museum itself, indicates that Lamentation contains ten works by Wiley. In fact, there are only nine - three oil paintings and six stained glass windows. But no matter - they are well worth a visit to this beautiful museum, which is located just off the Champs Elysées.

Petit Palais
© Discover Paris!

Lamentation banner - Petit Palais façade
© Discover Paris!

From the Petit Palais information card:
Kehinde Wiley continues his exploration of religious iconography at the Petit Palais.

By focusing on the story of Christ and his relationship with his mother, the Virgin Mary, he is initiating a thought-provoking conversation about masculinity.

The previously unseen series of six stained glass windows exhibited at the heart of the large format gallery center on the figure of a young Christ: the artist moves beyond the religious context to explore the expression of his vulnerability - the vulnerability of the dead child and the adult Christ.

The six stained glass windows are displayed in a hexagonal structure at the rear of the "Large Format Gallery." They are found between the majestic The Funeral Day, a Scene from Morocco by Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant and several works with religious themes, such as Gustave Doré's The Ascension and William Bouguereau's The Virgin with Angels.

Lamentations stained glass window display
© Discover Paris!

Each window portrays an adult holding a child. Though three of the adults are men, the names of these works indicate that the man represents Mary, Mother of God. In the works entitled Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted I and Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II, the man carries a dead child.

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II (detail)
2016 Stained glass and aluminum frame
© Discover Paris!

Downstairs, a room is dedicated to three monumental oil paintings that complement the stained glass windows.

Lamentations oil paintings
© Discover Paris!

From the Petit Palais information card:
Together these works offer a bodily representation of the Christ figure. By choosing to focus on the body, the most concrete and vulnerable, if not animal, aspect of his "personality", Kehinde Wiley takes a highly contemporary approach to reviving the debate of the divine or human nature of Christ, the eternal dichotomy between body and mind.

The signature piece of the exhibition, Lamentation, is found here.

Lamentation
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Wiley has indeed focused on the "body of Christ" in these works, rendering each subject with anatomic precision.

Lamentation (detail)
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

In Christ after Lady Macbeth I and Christ after Lady Macbeth II, one can easily imagine that the Christ figure was a bodybuilder.

Christ after Lady Macbeth II
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Christ after Lady Macbeth II (detail)
2016 Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Only a few days remain to see this exhibition. It closes on January 15.

Lamentation
Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill
75008 Paris
Telephone: 01.53.43.40.00
Internet: http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry to the Kehinde Wiley exhibition is free.