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Poetic and Political explores two realms of perception often considered oppositional but more likely to work in tandem to make a rich, provocative and compelling visual impact. The exhibition juxtaposes the work of Josef Albers, a single artist focused on the psychic and emotive qualities of color, with African and African American artists who confront the historic and contemporary traces of colonialism as they contribute to the power of healing and renewal. Both aesthetic and political trajectories intertwine, demanding sensitivity, keen perception, and a heightened awareness of context, change and transformation.
Joseph Albers’ famous series, Homage to the Square and several prints from the portfolio, Formulation Articulation, Volume I, are remarkably poetic. Albers believed that color creates a psychic and emotional effect. Even so, his work was based on a mathematically determined format. Albers experimented with the relativity of color, how it changes through juxtaposition, placement and interaction with other colors. Throughout his work, Albers found a link between formal elements in art and social behavior.
African and African-American artists in the exhibition combine the poetic with a focus on history and politics. The story of the Diaspora persists in these works. Art historian, T. J. Demos argues that the colonial past still haunts Africa because the past has not really passed. Artists in this installation contest historic amnesia and confront the material traces and psychic scars of colonialism while acknowledging and contributing to the power of healing and reconciliation in Africa and in the Diaspora. Many artists focus on the present, concerned with national and personal identity amidst economic disparity and changing social tradition. Works by El Anatsui, William Kentridge, Zanele Muholi, Zohra Opoku and Yelimane Fall are just a few of the works made from the finest aesthetic and poetic practice.