The African Exhibit At The Art Institute Of Chicago

922 WordsJan 26, 20174 Pages
The African exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago is difficult to find. At the end of a shotgun wing consisting of Japanese, Korean, and other East Asian art, and beyond Native American art, sits the one-room gallery for African art. Here, most of the objects could be considered fashions, tools, or domestic objects. There is a bizarre absence of chronology, and the objects seem too similar to speak for Africa at large– as if everything on display arose from the same historical situation and from the same experimental sampling pool. Among this ad hoc assortment of characters, one would find a chest. Actually, a rather bulky jewelry box, which is immediately distinct from the precious, intimate jewelry boxes in many of the visitors’…show more content…
This pattern continues on all sides of the box with the metalwork even making up the hasp on the front and the hinges of the box’s lid on the plain, back panel. Even the interior radiates with ornamentation. The coppery leather lining of the jewelry box is painted with reds, greens, purples, and yellows. The geometry of the pattern is vastly different than the exterior. It hosts a field of angular forms adjoined to their neighbors with repetitious outlines of various colors. Some of these forms contain even more detail. One can pick out latticing, hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling within these shapes. The detail work creates a contrast between interior and exterior, as the artistic production between the spaces is vastly different. It seems like these boxes are made by group effort. Functionally, the jewelry box needs further examination for any comprehension. Its bulky size makes sense in conjunction with the many surrounding jewelry pieces, which are elaborate, heavily ornamented, and chunky. Because the back of the chest was plain and so unlike the rest, it must have been hidden from sight. This could very well mean that the box was fixed in location, like furniture. Similarly, by understanding that jewelry boxes were used as dowry or sometimes as a gift from bride to groom, one can also infer the centrality of the box to the culture. In the United States it is common to receive dinnerware and other

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