the Kongo Across the Waters exhibit at the Harn museum

Consider the Kongo Across the Waters exhibit at the Harn museum and choose at least two objects for close analysis. First, describe the objects visually using the detailed questions below as a guide (points 1-3). Then relate the visual analysis to the historical context in which the objects were created (point 4). How do these objects illustrate or represent historical developments described in your readings? In your readings, focus especially on the Thornton book and the three chapters by Jason Young for the historical framing of your analysis, being sure to specifically reference at least two chapters from these readings in some detail. You may also use the textbook, class lectures, and Harn exhibition material (including the historical fiction pieces) to frame the historical context.

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Questions to guide your visual analysis:

1. What are your first impressions of this work? What does it show and what does is seem to be about?

2. Describe the work. Looking closely, write some notes about what is shown and how it is shown. Rather than value judgments (“good depiction”), seek neutral descriptive terms (“bright colors”, “active lines”, “solid forms”)

You might observe things about

  • elements of art including color, shape, line, texture, space, form, volume.
  • principles of design: balance, contrast, emphasis, movement/rhythm, unity, variety.
  • modes of depiction:  distance from subject, perspective of viewer.
  • process: materials used, level of finish, signs of assembly.

3. Analyze the elements you have just described.

  • How is the composition organized and what impression does this give?
  • What colors are used and how have they been arranged?
  • What shapes are there and how have they been arranged?
  • Is there any use of pattern? If so where?
  • Is the form flat or in the round?
  • Is it balanced and symmetrical or unevenly weighted?

4. Interpret your observations (but also keep referring back to the work).  What does this work seem to be about now?  How is this interpretation supported by the handling of artistic elements of composition; colors, line, shape, etc.?  How do these objects illustrate or represent historical developments described in your readings? Your interpretation may concern the successful handling of artistic elements, the expressive or emotional content of the work, but especially the social meaning and utility of the work and the historical context in which it was produced.

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