Pascale Marthine Tayou's "Favelas ABC," 2012
The Fowler Museum at UCLA presents “World Share: Installations by Pascale Marthine Tayou,” a large-scale immersive environment that combines the artist’s sculpture, drawings and poetry with Fowler artworks and recorded sound.
Assembled from a stunning diversity of materials and found objects, Tayou’s art is characterized by an aesthetic of accumulation. He pierces Styrofoam with thousands of pins and razorblades, stacks hundreds of birdhouses against a wall, and adorns crystal glass figures with beads, plastic flowers, and feathers. This approach derives in part from the ways African sculpture is empowered with accumulations of materials to assert various kinds of religious, social, and political authority. Tayou uses this aesthetic to raise searching questions about inequalities of wealth and power in today’s postcolonial, global context at the same time he explores the hidden spiritual forces that infuse everyday life in African cities.
This project is the continuation in my long journey toward the unknown,
An initiatory process at the heart of contemporary rituals,
Ought I to believe or not believe?
Pascale Marthine Tayou, 2014
The exhibition opens with a preview on Sat., Nov. 1, featuring a conversation with the artist and Gemma Rodrigues, the Fowler’s curator of African arts. It will be on display through Mar. 1, 2015.
World Share is composed of several multi-part installations that intersect in surprising ways to encourage dialogue. Key installations include:
- “Bend skins” (the Cameroonian name for the moped-taxis ubiquitous in African cities), which are transformed by the artist into zoomorphic “power figures” that appear to glide through the gallery. The vehicles are laden with empty baskets, gourds and plastic bottles and activated by the horse hair amulets that are typically used by African taxi drivers to protect their vehicles. Each bend skin combines references to movement, journeys and crowded cities in the developing world.
- “Favelas ABC,” first installed at the Copenhagen Arts Festival in 2012, features a mass of birdhouses clinging to the gallery wall accompanied by a cacophony of recorded sounds of life in a busy city. Favela — a word that refers to slums in Brazil — evokes the universal human quest for shelter and community while also referencing the imbalances of poverty and opportunity that plague peoples across the globe.
- “Poupées Pascales” (2014) and “Masques” (2014) form an installation that includes 25 hand-blown crystal figures and masks, some inspired by the Fowler Museum’s African collections. By remaking wood sculptures in transparent glass, Tayou opens them up to new associations. Following traditional African approaches of activating sculptures by adorning them with ritually significant pigments, animal claws, or other objects, Tayou embellishes his “power” figures with materials such as chocolate, feathers and nylon stockings.
- “Les Sauveteurs” (2014) consists of six, almost life-size, blown glass crystal renditions of the itinerant street hawkers ubiquitous in African towns and cities. Each crystal figure is bedecked with goods and packages. The name, which means “rescuers” in French, has multiple connotations that blend practical, spiritual and emotional forms of “salvage.” Street hawkers in Cameroon are understood to “save” you by providing on-the-spot services and to salvage goods by recycling and reselling them.
- “Vodou Walls” draws together and re-contextualizes three existing works: “Scandinavian Landscape” (2014), “Madagascar 1/2” (2012) and “Gli Spilli del Sarto” (2010). All three are made from large panels of Styrofoam pierced with a profusion of razor blades, nails or colored pushpins, which trace the contours of topographic features such as rivers and mountains. For Tayou, the act of cutting or piercing relates to African methods of traditional healing as well as the transformation of the human body through scarification.
Other works include:
- “Jpegafrica/Africagift B” consists of a group of West African “colon” figures — a popular art form that caricatures the demeanor and appearance of European colonizers in Africa — posed around a pile of crumpled flags from postcolonial African nations.
- “Colonne Pascale,” a totem-like stack of Chinese-made enameled pots popular in kitchens across Africa, towers toward the gallery ceiling, an ironic monument to sustenance and its lack.
- “Black Diamonds” are hanging wire sculptures that call to mind the commercial extraction of Africa’s minerals and the colloquial name given to members of South Africa’s emerging black middle and upper classes.
A same-titled book published in conjunction with the exhibition will feature essays by Rodrigues and Leora Maltz-Leca, assistant professor of contemporary art and culture at the Rhode Island School of Design.
About the artist
Pascale Marthine Tayou was born in Nkongsamba, Cameroon, in 1966, and has been living and working for the past decade in Ghent, Belgium. In the 1990s, while still in Cameroon, Tayou was working toward a law degree, but he left to pursue work as an artist.
Tayou learned art informally from other artists and developed his skills independently. He became a key figure in the contemporary art scene in Douala — one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in Cameroon — which since the early 1990s has been a center of experimental and socially conscious work built on performance, installation and site-specific intervention. In 1996, he participated in the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal and emerged on the international biennial circuit, exhibiting at the Sydney Biennial in 1998, Documenta 11 in 2002 and the Tate Modern’s Triennial in 2009, among numerous others. Also in 2009, Tayou produced one of the largest installations in curator Daniel Birnbaum’s “Making Worlds” international exhibition for the Venice Biennale. He is represented by Gallery Continua in San Gimignano, Italy, and travels frequently between Europe and Africa.
“World Share: Installations by Pascale Marthine Tayou” is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and curated by Gemma Rodrigues. Major funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Brenda R. Potter, and the Fay Bettye Green Fund to Commission New Work. Generous support is provided by the Jay T. Last and Deborah R. Last Endowment, the Philip L. Ravenhill Fund, the Pasadena Art Alliance, and Manus, the support group of the Fowler Museum.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country’s most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesdays through Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m.; and on Thursdays, from noon until 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $12 in Lot 4 (map). For more information, call 310-825-4361 or visit fowler.ucla.edu.
Opening day events
Saturday, Nov. 1
Pascale Marthine Tayou and Gemma Rodrigues, the Fowler’s curator of African arts, in conversation
Members’ opening preview and party
Additional programs are announced online at the Fowler’s website.