Tingatinga Style at the Fowler
|Saidi Nakoko, Painting, 1999 or before. Fowler Museum at UCLA|
Western collectors of African art have long chased a phantom of authenticity. "Tourist" and "airport" art have been pejoratives. More recently scholars have come to appreciate the vernacular (non-art school) art made for export as part of a global dialog of influences. The Fowler Museum and late UCLA scholar/curator Doran H. Ross were crucial in this reappraisal. (Currently on view at the Fowler is another essential African painting show, on Kwame Akoto/the Almighty God, through Nov. 20, 2022.)
The Tingatinga exhibition occupies the central hallway and is subject to glare from the glazed courtyard. Most of the works, executed in colorful bicycle paint, are hung on the wall unstretched, much as they might have been displayed for sale. The exhibition has nothing by E.S. Tingatinga himself. It centers on a selection of Tanzanian export painting purchased by the museum in 1999 and presumed to date from not too long before. The cleverness of style and optic dazzle are high throughout, yet you'd be hard put to distinguish individual hands. Most artists are represented with a single painting.
In Saidi Nakoko's painting of a black antelope (top of post), the creature's head is a zoomorphic mask. Its impossibly swayback posture creates room for a patterning of birds in trees. But none of these elements were the artist's unique invention.
|Mr Rubuni, Painting, 1999 or before|
|Mr. Thabit, Painting, 1999 or before|
|Mikidadi Bush, Painting, 1999 or before|