MARCH 31 - MAY 7, 2016
Cavin-Morris Gallery is pleased to celebrate this year’s Tribal Art Week in New York City with an exhibition of non-classical masks and sculptures from Nepal, India, and Bhutan called FACESHIFTING II: Animistic Masks from the Himalayas.
Our first Faceshifting exhibition in 2014 featured masks from all over the world. FACESHIFTING II focuses on a masking phenomenon that is under-documented (especially in English), yet is incredibly rich and varied. There is almost an art brut quality to the masks, as each is most often carved by the user creatively within very broad guidelines. The masks, although still actively danced today, have ancient origins in animist and shamanic traditions that were in place before Hindu and Buddhist beliefs became the ‘classic’ religions of the area. Unfortunately, scholars have paid more attention to the ‘classic’ masks than to these so-called ‘primitive’ examples.
The Himalayas have long been a site of mixed spiritualities. The animist sensibilities came from an intense relationship with the vagaries of Nature; the weather, agricultural cycles, health and disease etc. Each mask reads as a journal of this survival and the intensities of those beliefs; some are not danced but have an ancestral presence, hung in homes over doorways or placed by the hearth for amuletic purposes for home and family.
The characters are archetypal including sacred clowns or tricksters, wild men of the bush, goddesses, priests and demons, and wise old men. The masks are stark and often expressively powerful in their minimal charged lines, with deep patination of ash, and other sacrificial materials.
It has taken several years to bring together the pieces for this exhibition. We are pleased to present this rarely seen art form only now beginning to attract the recognition it deserves in this country.