Collection Exhibitions

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Spheres of Influence: African Vessels from the KAM and Spurlock Museum Collections

1/29/2016 - 5/15/2016
Organizing institution: Krannert Art Museum at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Primary Curator: Allyson Purpura

Spheres of Influence features a selection of 23 ceramic pots from regions across Africa. Visually compelling for their robust yet elegant forms and beautifully restrained surface designs, these vessels are also highly social objects. Used for storing grains or personal possessions, cooking, brewing beer, containing and cooling water, housing spirits or medicinal substances, or as communicative devices and markers of prestige, pots perform critical roles in the everyday, ceremonial, and political lives of their communities. Made predominantly by women artists with deep knowledge of local materials, molding and firing techniques, and the logics of design and efficient form, pots also embody a politics of gender. Women’s close identification with their vessels and control over the process of their production attest to the power of women’s creative labor and their ability to transform earth into containers of enduring meaning, value, and sociality. Spheres of Influence is enhanced by strategic loans from Spurlock Museum and local private collections, and includes excerpts from the film African Pottery Techniques, produced by Christopher Roy, professor of African Art History at University of Iowa. (Filmed in 2001-2002.) The film will not be shown in its entirety; instead clips displayed in the exhibition demonstrate a number of forming techniques used by expert women potters in Burkina Faso and Ghana, West Africa.

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