This collection of photographs began with the tableau of three African figures (first image). The tableau is in the Colonial Figure style made by the Baule from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Carvings such as this are made to sell, which requires that they resonate with buyers' tastes. One may find them even in ethnographic museum gift shops. The Malian trader from whom the tableau was purchased had a second, almost identical one, painted a bit differently.
The Baule tableau is the only narrative carving in this series, but it draws attention to the implicit messages of the other carvings. All of them, no matter their origin, play on stereotypes that are now mostly considered beyond the pale.
We show each figure in an extremely non-contextual light and space in order to maximize both its iconic characteristics and formal qualities. We also attempt to set up a tension between the non-precious nature of “folk art” and the rarified characteristics of the “exquisite” fine art photographic print.
West African Colonial Figures
West African Colonial Figure
West African Colonial Figure
Damrell '95. Folk Carving, US
West African Colonial Figure
West African Colonial Figure
Bill Brown (approx. 1980). Folk Carving US
MH KY. Folk Carving US
West African Colonial Figures
B. F. Conley 1995. Folk Carving US
RO. Folk Carving US
Jan Skora. Polish Folk Carving
Folk Carving US
West African Colonial Style
West African Colonial Style
West African Colonial Style
West African Colonial Style
West African Colonial Style
Switzerland (approx. 1935)
Revolutionary Style Figure, made in China for export to US
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