ILLUSTRATION: SILJA GÖTZ
via The New Yorker, November 5, 2007:
by Peter Schjeldahl
One recent Sunday at the Met, when "The Age of Rembrandt" was as jammed as a clown car, a few viewers had the run of an astonishing sculpture show, "Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary." Smartly chosen objects, most from the nineteenth century, enable instant connoisseurship of traditions whose famous impact on modern art, via Picasso et al., is incidental to their quality: better than modern art, by and large. No Western master improves on the formal genius of the best Fang reliquary figures (made to guard vessels full of ancestral remains) and Kwele masks. Focus on details of the black, glisteningly oiled Fang pieces: rhythmic elongation and compression of body parts, heads domed like cosmic eggs, sublimely abstracted hair plaits, and backs whose subtle planes flabbergast. Some of the unknown artists were powerful and crude, others elegant and a mite bland. But the maker of the statue that, when shown in London in 1933, was dubbed "the Black Venus" beggars Brancusi.