The Easel

11th February 2020

Desert Empires: Wonders to Behold

The southern edge of the Sahara, the Sahel, is politically turbulent. It was not always thus. For thousands of years it was a prosperous trading area, a centre of learning and the location of multiple empires. Its art was much more diverse than the tribal art many today associate with Africa. This show affirms “the integrity and complexity, past and present, of something called the Sahel … there is no “typical,” no one style, no one “Africa.”

4th February 2020

Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates

Denes’s 1982 wheat field in a Manhattan landfill site was a seminal work of land art. A New York retrospective shows a career full of divergent ideas – buried poetry, patterned tree plantings, floating sculptures. Technical drawings of “great beauty” attempt to visualize branches of knowledge. And then there are her pyramid sculptures: “what they all convey is the human drama, our hopes and dreams against great odds.”

Artist Noah Davis died tragically at age 32. A New York show reveals a great lost talent

Reviews of this show carry a flavor of ‘what might have been’. Davis’s profile was rising, having early success in the LA art market as well as establishing a thriving Black-centred art space. At just 32, he died. Will his lasting achievement be the art center or his “atmospheric” art? Perhaps the latter, muses the curator of a New York survey: “I think he’s a really great artist”. Says the writer “I think she might be right”.

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Eighteenth century European royalty believed that ‘knowledge is power’. What better way to show this than with ornate scientific objects, like clocks, compasses, telescopes, that displayed both scientific ingenuity and regal erudition. And, if this messaging was too subtle, there was a sub-text. As the history of the Dresden Green diamond makes clear …’if you’ve got it, flaunt it’.