Encounters: The Arts of Africa

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Encounters: The Arts of Africa, installation view, 2012. Curated by Allyson Purpura. Photo by Chris Brown.
Encounters: The Arts of Africa, installation view, 2012. Curated by Allyson Purpura. Photo by Chris Brown.

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Encounters: The Arts of Africa, installation view, 2012. Curated by Allyson Purpura. Photo by Chris Brown.
Encounters: The Arts of Africa, installation view, 2012. Curated by Allyson Purpura. Photo by Chris Brown.

Installed in 2012, Encounters was the first of KAM’s permanent collection galleries to be fully renovated and reconceived to reflect the museum’s commitment to exploring the global connections and epistemological frames through which objects move and come to be known in the world. 

The completely redesigned space, lighting, iPads, and signature casework invite visitors to see African artworks not only as visually compelling in their own right, but also as objects of encounter that can tell stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught histories through which they have journeyed. The gallery’s thematic groupings and 11 visitor-activated videos of masquerades, narrative vignettes, and artist interviews assist in the “telling” of those stories and draw out resonances among the objects on display. Gallery themes include: “The Power of Script;” “The Creativity of Power;” "Art of Masking;" “Reading the Body;” “The Art of Small Things;” “Objects of Encounter;” “The Art of Performance;” “Fraught Histories;” and “Orisha: Yoruba Art, Spirit, and Diaspora.”

The original 2012 installation of Encounters featured highlights from KAM’s collection of historical African art, the majority of which is from west and central Africa and was generously donated to the museum by the Richard J. Faletti family and Cecilia and Irwin Smiley. Displayed in conversation with these historical works were several recent acquisitions by Yeliman Fall, Wosene Worke Kosrof, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, and Magdelene Odundo, all of which attest to the long and active participation of artists from Africa in the international contemporary arts scene.

Though a “permanent” gallery, Encounters remains fresh with ongoing object rotations, and the addition of new themes or videos. We hope this installation, as it changes over time, will allow for encounters of all kinds, including those that challenge misperceptions and inspire new lines of inquiry about the historical depth, global reach and contemporary relevance of African creativity. The Collection section (below) shows the range of works from the Krannert Art Museum collection that have been on view over time since the gallery was opened in 2012.


Ricker Library of Architecture and Art has developed a library guide that includes details about work contained in this gallery, as well as supplementary materials and curator-recommended reading: Library Guide to Encounters: The Arts of Africa


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Dynamic Structures: American Abstract Artists


3/2/2017 - 7/8/2017

Organizing institution: Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion

Primary Curator: Kathryn Koca Polite

In 1936, several artists in New York City, who grew tired of the lack of exhibiting opportunities for abstract artists, convened to discuss ways to promote and further the works of abstraction. The American Abstract Artists (AAA) emerged as a diverse group who engaged in various applications of abstraction: dynamic, clear geometry; abstraction influenced by surrealism and expressionism, often with biomorphic elements; and abstraction informed by the natural landscape. Overlooked during the 1930s and 1940s by major institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, the AAA aggressively protested these institutions and instead held their own exhibitions and forums to help garner acceptance of abstract art. The AAA can be seen as a predecessor to the New York School and abstract expressionism. This exhibition of works primarily from the Krannert Art Museum collection, and also a few strategic loans, features works from past members of the AAA, including Josef Albers, Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Corazzo, Sidney Gordin, Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, Carl Holty, Karl Knaths, Sol LeWitt, George L. K. Morris, Louise Nevelson, Irene Rice Peirera, Judith Rothschild, Louis Schanker, Charles Green Shaw, Esphyr Slobodkina, David Smith, and Jean Xceron.

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