Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art

Cleveland Museum of Art exhibit honors culture & inspires reflection  

By: Abigail Jarvis

The Cleveland Art Museum hosting “Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art” will be available to view until March 14th, By: Abigail Jarvis

The Cleveland Museum of art is well known for its insightful exhibitions and many opportunities for artistic interpretation. Currently, it houses an exhibit titled “Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art,” which offers insight into the ties that bind African heritage, personal histories, and a modern perspective on both. The exhibit contains statues, cultural artifacts, and collages with modern photographs.   

The pieces in the exhibit, and the title, come from three lenses the museum offers to attendees. Observing the works through the lenses of memory, materiality, and transformation are three methods of viewership and interpretation that can shift the works’ meanings.

Many of the historical pieces are objects that had places in history as possessions, tools, or garments. With this context, the viewer shifts from remembering a piece’s purpose to perceiving the object in its materialistic form. By looking at the work as an object removed from its old purpose in society, the materials become open for interpretation symbolically or aesthetically. The final lens given in the exhibition is that of transformation- how modern artists reinvent the meanings behind what were everyday objects in Africa and the new life they find in the museum. 

In a comment for a press release from the Cleveland Museum of Art, Director William Griwold said, “This exhibition contemplates how contemporary African artists from different generations draw inspiration from and seek transformative encounters with the historical canon, providing a critical understanding of African art, past and present.”

In February, this exhibit appears to hold extra significance. Black History Month is an annual occurrence that recognizes and celebrates the experiences and histories uniquely pertaining to black individuals. Second Careers aims to add a postcolonial perspective to cultural objects that were originally taken from Africa, by connecting historical art and adding contemporary Black artists’ techniques to the exhibit.

“Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art” will be available to view until March 14th. The exhibit is in the Julia and Larry Pollock Gallery (Gallery 010), across from the museum gift shop. Tickets can be reserved online for free here. Social distancing and mask wearing are mandatory at all times.

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