A Solomon Islands Figure for LACMA

Figure, Solomon Islands, 19th century
As LACMA gears up for a big loan show of Fijian art, opening Dec. 15, it has been augmenting its small permanent collection of Pacific Islands art. One acquisition is a strikingly naturalistic 19th-century wood Figure from the Solomon Islands. Supported on one leg, the sculpture is 14-1/2 inches high. It's a 2017 gift from Honolulu collectors Mark and Carolyn Blackburn.

Such carved figures are associated with the Roviana Lagoon, New Georgia Island. The Roviana people are best known for the highly abstracted prow figures that once decorated war canoes. In contrast, the realism of some late 19th century Roviana figures is unusual in Pacific Islands art. Little is known about their  creation or use. Like the canoe prow figures, they are dyed black and incorporate shell and other materials. It's assumed that they were influenced by Western art and may have been made for trade. Roviana production included sculptural busts that appear to be portraits. The balletic stance of the LACMA figure is unusual and recalls the dancers that Edgar Degas was making at just about the same time, on the other side of the globe.

The Figure joins a very different Solomon Islands piece, a rare Ceremonial Shield from Santa Isabel Island.


Anonymous said…
Nice acquisition.

I wonder if the Blackburns realize they gave the sculpture to a museum that's being systematically dismantled and destroyed?

They may not care. A tax write-off may have been their main consideration.