Gourd Bowl - Cameroon

Spheres of Influence

African Vessels from the KAM Collection

January 29 - May 15, 2016

Curator: Allyson Purpura

In Krannert Art Museum's ongoing effort to highlight rarely seen works from the collection, Spheres of Influence features a selection of 24 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 will demonstrate a number of forming techniques used by expert women potters in Burkina Faso and Ghana, West Africa.

Curator's Note: Special thanks to Carol Spindel, Doug Dawson, Kathleen Bickford-Berzock, Maria Berns, and Susan Vogel for lending their expertise to this exhibition. Additional thanks to Sarah Richter for her research on KAM's collection of African vessels.

Exhibitions and programs at Krannert Art Museum are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


Exhibition Events

January 28
Opening Night Preview for Museum Members
| 5–6 pm
With reception catered by Michaels' Catering
Please RSVP to Chris Schaede at 217 244 0516 or kam@illinois.edu by Friday, January 22.

Public Opening Reception | 6–7 pm
Opening comments by Time / Image curator Amy L. Powell at 6 pm
All exhibitions open until 9 pm
Cash bar provided by Michaels’ Catering; Hosted by Krannert Art Museum Council

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Carved Gourd Bowl (detail), n.d.
Gourd, pyroengraved
Gift of Anonymous Donor