Conversation Pieces: African Textiles from Barbara and Bill McCann’s Collection
Curated by Catherine Hale
14 February – 24 April 2011
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Conversation Pieces explores the vital role played by conversation and, more broadly, communication, in the acquisition, understanding and exhibition of textiles from the McCanns’ rich and varied collection. The exhibition presents approximately sixty textile works and a wide range of garments acquired by the McCanns since 1970, in countries from Morocco to South Africa, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads (1998), a textile-based installation work by contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare, loaned by the National Gallery of Canada.
Whether created as emblems of prestige, to commemorate particular events or individuals, to offer protection, or to identify a rite of passage, textiles and clothing throughout the African continent are actively employed to communicate concepts of identity, history, and community. Highlights of the exhibition include an intricately-appliquéd raffia woman’s skirt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a cotton hunter’s shirt from Mali adorned with leather amulets and mirrors, a richly-embroidered cotton man’s gown from Nigeria, a Moroccan wool hooded cloak featuring a vivid red “eye” motif, and a three-part bridal outfit (smock, shawl and trousers) from Egypt’s Siwa Oasis region. Conversation Pieces highlights the many ways that textiles initiate dialogue about and between people in Africa and elsewhere. A catalogue is planned.
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