December 1, 2016 - February 25, 2017
Cavin-Morris Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of masks from the East Sepik province in Papua, New Guinea called YAMINISM: Abelam Masks of Sustenance and Spirit.
The Dioscorea alata, or long yam, is a vital and fundamental part of Abelam culture. Social mores, economics, social standing, etc. are all elements of the animistic yam culture. Over centuries the long, straight branch-like yams have come to represent objects of reverence for ancestral spirits. They are treated with utmost care and formality. The wooden masks in this exhibition represent those ancestral spirits.
The jewel-like masks made for the yam ceremony by the Abelam, Arapesh and Boiken people, are becoming increasingly scarce. The masks, while made for a single purpose, rarely if ever repeat in form, and are highly valued among those who use them. They are under-collected and under-appreciated in the West, particularly in the United States, probably because the woven, coiled, and plaited fibers are seen as more ephemeral. The traditional collecting preference has always been for larger masks with heavily patinated wood.
This carefully assembled collection of masks were selected by a contemporary artist with an adventuresome and eclectic eye who also valued the ethnographic authenticity and original intentionality of the work. For this reason he purchased masks from a variety of old and new collections, including the Jolika Collection, John and Marcia Friede, Michael Hamson, Bruce Frank, Galerie Meyer and others of equal quality.
We present this exhibition, as we have previously presented Faceshifting (world masks) and Vodun, Vodou, Conjure: The Animistic Arts of the African Diaspora, as an area of cultural arts that deserves more appreciation by the public. In 2015 Michael Hamson published a catalog titled “Art of the Abelam” which illuminated the fascinating creative freedom of these important works. This is the first time such a large concentration of these masks has been shown in one place.
For further information please contact Cavin-Morris Gallery at email@example.com, or phone: 212-226-3768.