Copyright and Mourning: Funerary Art of New Ireland

The island of New Ireland, part of the contemporary nation of Papua New Guinea, is known for its remarkable and varied funerary art forms. The most famous of these is called Malangan, which is practiced by the peoples of northern New Ireland. These ceremonies free the living from obligations to the deceased and allow the spirit of the deceased to move on to the next life. The term Malangan refers both to the ceremony, performances, and feasts that are held to honor the deceased and the art objects that are created for them.

After a person’s death their matrilineal family line is responsible for sponsoring the Malangan celebrations, though other family members and friends can also contribute and honor the dead. These celebrations include both people from within the community and visitors and friends who have traveled to take part. As these celebrations include feasts, performances, and the ceremonial exchange of goods, they are often spread out over months and years. Given the great expense of such a celebration, it is not unusual for the Malangan to take place months to years after the death of an individual or for one celebration to be used to honor several people. Both receiving a Malangan celebration in one’s honor and sponsoring a celebration for another confers status within the community.

Malangan designs, motifs, and forms are often referred to as having “copyrights.” While this does not line up perfectly with the Western use of the term, it is a relatively good way to understand the rules of use connected with them. Only people who have the “rights” to them can use the designs, motifs, and forms, and these rights are owned by specific families as well as by people who have reached certain important stages in life (such as marriage or the birth of a child).

The peoples of southern New Ireland used chalk figures as a part of their memorial rituals. These figures, made by specialist artists in the center of the island, were created for the deceased’s spirit to enter and as a means of guiding that spirit to the afterlife. Once this purpose had been fulfilled the figure itself was destroyed.

There are two other major funerary art forms from New Ireland, which unlike Malangan are no longer practiced. In central New Ireland the Mandak peoples created memorial figures to embody the spirit of the deceased. These figures would commemorate the life of an individual man and were typically displayed as part of a ceremony for skull burial at the end of a yearlong funeral ritual for an important person.

 

Unknown Artist. New Ireland, Northwest area, Papua New Guinea. Memorial Carving in the Form of a Figure. Wood, pigment, fiber, sea snail opercula. Eskenazi Museum of Art 81.17

After the death of a loved one the family of the deceased commissions a sculptor or sculptors to create, over several months, elaborate memorial carvings known as Malangan. In some instances the head of a family may contribute a form or motif to a friend or community leader from another family.

Figures, such as this one, while varying greatly, typically represent an ancestor or mythical entity connected to the single life-giving force. The exact story or explanation of imagery used in a Malangan carving is only understood by the owner of the rights to that Malangan. Even other members of the community would not fully understand a Malangan they did not have the rights to use.

It is believed that during the public display of the figure the ancestor or mythical figure depicted dwells within the form. The final step in the creation of a Malangan figure is the placing of the eyes, which enliven the carving. Once the ceremony is over the figures are destroyed or sold to people outside of the community.

 

Unknown artist. New Ireland, Northwest area, Papua New Guinea. Mask, Tatanua. Wood, pigment, fiber, sea snail opercula. Eskenazi Museum of Art 63.15

In addition to the carvings utilized as part of the Malangan rituals, dances performed for the public were also extremely important. This mask was worn and danced by men and was created to convey manly beauty. The high crest represents a hairstyle worn by young men of the community during mourning. Additionally, the flaring nostrils and open mouth are common features for the form.

While the hairstyle shown is one worn by young men, the subject the mask depicts is not clearly agreed upon. Early reports suggest that the masks are representations of the dead, ancestors who have returned in order to participate in the Malangan. Many New Irelanders today reject this idea and instead believe the masks to be the representations of living people. It is unclear if this early report was mistaken or if people’s interpretation of the masks have changed over time.

These masks, which typically appear at the end of the Malangan rituals, are danced in pairs or groups. These dance performances are often given and paid for by a friend or by family members of the deceased. Unlike the carvings associated with Malangan that are created uniquely for the individual dance, masks are often rented from the sculptor who created them and can be reused in the future.

 

Unknown artist. New Ireland, Southern area, Papua New Guinea. Figure, kulap. Chalk, pigment. Eskenazi Museum of Art 62.67

After the conversion of the peoples of New Ireland to Christianity the practice of chalk figures came to a quick end. The last figures to be made are thought to have been created around 1910.

Before the early twentieth century when a man or woman from a prosperous family passed away a male relative would travel to obtain a chalk figure. These figures were sometimes commissioned, but sometimes pre-made figures were purchased, always with the sex of the figure matching the sex of the deceased.

Once the male relative returned home the figure would be presented to the local leader who was in charge of such images and placed with other figures in a memorial shrine. This shrine, located within an enclosure, was only to be viewed by men, though women often gathered outside to mourn the deceased.

 

Unknown Mandak artist. New Ireland, Central area, Papua New Guinea. Memorial Figure. Wood, pigment, shell, sea snail operculum, fiber. Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art 91.498

Visually there are number of connections to the Malangan carvings of northern New Ireland, such as the predominant use of black, white, and red pigments; however, unlike the Malangan memorial carvings, this one would be kept over many years. In fact, whenever a new figure was carved all of the other figures would be brought out and repainted for the occasion.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of this type of figure is the presence of both male and female genitalia. It is thought that this may be a representation of the importance of both men and women within the community and as part of the reproductive cycle. However, very little firm evidence is known as these figures have not been created or used in several generations. Also, there are only a few known reports that describe their ceremonial context and these are based on very limited information. What is clear is that these figures were created to represent those who were powerful and important within their community.

Emma Kessler
Curatorial Assistant for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
IU Eskenazi Museum of Art

If you would like to learn more about South Pacific and Oceanic Art visit the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Highlights from the Collection website.

 

New in the Galleries: Modern Sculptors in Indiana

indysculpt1

In celebration of the Indiana State Bicentennial, the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is featuring a special installation titled Modern Sculptors in Indianawith works by renowned sculptors who were born, worked, or studied in the state. The works on display represent the diversity and pluralism of modern sculpture and range from representative figures to geometric forms. An official Bicentennial Legacy Project, this installation commemorates the rich artistic heritage of Indiana and showcases some of the state’s most influential sculptures. It is on view through March 12, 2017 in the museum’s first-floor gallery of the Art of the Western World. Originally from Concarneau, France, Robert Laurent is perhaps one of the best known artists to contribute work for the Bloomington campus. His figurative sculpture The Birth of Venus (also known as the Showalter Fountain) is located in the Fine Arts Plaza next to the Eskenazi Museum of Art. Laurent worked primarily in Bloomington for the last two decades of his career and taught at Indiana University from 1942 to 1960. Some of his other works can be seen throughout campus, namely at the IU Auditorium and on the façade of Ballantine Hall. This installation features Torso, Laurent’s walnut sculpture of a female form from 1924. Representative of his lifelong interest in smooth and elegant surfaces, Torso provides visitors an intimate view of one of Laurent’s earlier small-scale works, which preceded the public and monumental sculptures of his late career.

Bloomington locals may also be familiar with Alexander Calder’s large, abstract sculpturePeau Rouge Indiana, outside Indiana University’s Musical Arts Center. Born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, Calder gained international attention for his suspended mobile sculptures. In contrast, Peau Rouge Indiana is a “stabile,” or monumental and stationary steel sculpture.Despite its inability to move, the overlapping and intersecting abstract planes, as well as its striking red color, dynamically activate the space it occupies. A maquette, or preliminary model,of Peau Rouge Indiana is on view in the Indiana Sculptors installation, providing an opportunity to explore Calder’s early working process. The other artists in the installation have also expanded the parameters of modern sculpture, both in Indiana and on an international scale. David Smith, the abstract expressionist who influenced many of the other artists in this installation, worked in South Bend in the early 1920s and was a visiting artist at Indiana University from 1955 to 1956; David Hayes received degrees from both University of Notre Dame and Indiana University, where he worked with Smith; George Rickey,a South Bend native, created intricate kinetic sculptures; and Isamu Noguchi, known for his surrealist-inspired, biomorphic sculptures, moved to Indiana from Japan at the age of thirteen.

We hope you take this opportunity to visit us at the Eskenazi Museum of Art and see the work of some of Indiana’s most significant twentieth-century sculptors. If you have any questions, please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu.

Post by Andrew Wang, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Graduate Assistant for European and American Art.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website
New in the Galleries
Restoring Peau Rouge Indiana

Spotlights: Two Recent Acquisitions On View in French Sculpture Collection

84.10Image: Jacques Lipchitz (French, born Lithuania, 1891-1973). Harlequin with Guitar, 1926. Bronze. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, 84.10

This summer the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is offering a special exhibition called Spotlights: Five Views into the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Collection, on view June 11-September 4, 2016. In this exhibition each of the museum’s five curators has chosen a group of objects to highlight due to their rarity, research interest, or importance, as a way of further displaying the range and quality that make the museum’s collection among the best in the country. You can find an overview of the exhibition HERE, and we will be taking a deeper look at the individual collections “spotlighted” here on the blog this summer. This week we focus on a collection of French sculpture curated by Jenny McComas, the museum’s Curator of European and American Art.

Between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century, Paris was the birthplace of avant-garde movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism. While the paintings associated with these movements are well known, sculpture, too, played a significant role in the development of modern French art. The Eskenazi Museum of Art has a strong collection of sculptures by artists who were active in France during this time. While some of these works are always on view in the museum’s permanent gallery, this exhibition offers an expanded survey of our holdings in this area, including two new acquisitions, which you can see below.

2016.1Image: Charles Malfray (French, 1887-1940). Rider Crossing the Marne, 1915. Terracotta. Museum purchase with funds from Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, 2016.1

Charles Malfray’s work blends aspects of classicism and modernism, though many of his subjects referred to his experiences on World War I battlefields. This sculpture may allude to the First Battle of the Marne, which took place in September 1914. Possibly a model for a larger work, this terracotta reveals the spontaneity of Malfray’s working process.

2016.2Image: Marcel Damboise (French 1903-1992). Peasant (La Paysanne), 1938-39. Stone. Gift of Danielle Damboise Françoise, daughter of the artist, 2016.2

Born in Marseilles, Marcel Damboise apprenticed with a stonecutter before moving to Paris to pursue sculpture. Damboise’s work is characterized by a respect for traditional forms and subjects. He also conveyed a sense of modernity by simplifying forms and giving prominence to the mark of the artist’s hand—as evidenced by the patterning carved into this sculpture’s surface. This beautiful work was a generous gift to our museum from the daughter of the artist.

The other sculptures on view as part of our Spotlights exhibition range from the figurative, classicizing sculptures of Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol to more experimental works by the Cubist Henri Laurens and the Surrealist Marcel Jean. As the center of the art world, Paris also attracted artists from around the globe. Some of these immigrants—including Jacques Lipchitz, born to a Jewish family in Lithuania; Alexander Archipenko, a native of Ukraine; and Julio González from Barcelona—were among the most important contributors to the development of French modernism, drawing both on their diverse backgrounds and their enthusiasm for Parisian culture. We hope you take the opportunity to visit the museum and see the full collection on view through September 4, 2016. Admission to the Eskenazi Museum of Art is always FREE. If you have any questions, please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu.

If you would like to learn more about French Sculpture visit the French Sculpture Census website.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Art Work(s) of the Week: Aleah’s Top 11

The time has come in my personal arts journey to move on to a new place, now that I have completed my Master’s degree. However, I could not leave without first sharing one more (brief, when considering all that the IU Art Museum has done for me,) blog post on what makes the IU Art Museum special.

I have collected my top 11 artworks here at the IU Art Museum for you (outside of Caillebotte’s Yerres, Effect of Rain and the Maori Hei Tiki pendant, which already have blog posts in their honor). These works are ones that stood out to me or affected me in some way.

Emmi Whitehorse (American, born 1957)
“Rushing Water,” 2001
Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas
Gift of Thomas Robertello in honor of the Jacobs School of Music flute class 2010, 2010.95

Emmi Whitehorse’s Rushing Water
This painting took me by storm. The third in a set of three contemporary Native American paintings currently on view in the first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World, this depiction of a river in the American southwest is a powerful rush when you first see it. I have always been attracted to warm colors, and this paradoxical treatment of water as if it were fire is breathtaking. Ms. Whitehorse creates an expansive desertscape on a limited canvas, peppered with lines and circles that convey movement. Thank you, Mr. Robertello, for your generous gift.

Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916)
Four Foxes, 1913
Watercolor and chalk on paper
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, IU Art Museum 75.21

Franz Marc’s Four Foxes (Right)
Nestled in our extensive Works on Paper collection, this lovely watercolor and chalk sketch by Franz Marc left me completely smittened. I had seen some of Marc’s work before and enjoyed the bold, saturated colors and geometric animals. But happening upon this piece in a print viewing compelled me to learn more about Marc, his art, and the German Expressionist movement. Simple and sweet, I love that you can see the strokes of Marc’s brush/hand, and the soft peach and sienna of the foxes are complemented by the setting’s blue-greens.

I was never a fan of modern/contemporary art before I came here. I was content in my Renaissance/Baroque-only world. Works like this, and The Old Man below, really opened my eyes. It is fascinating to me how your tastes and preferences stretch and evolve as you get older, and how you realize how much you can learn if you keep an open mind. German Expressionism is now, by far one of my favorite movements.

Teotihuacan culture, Mexico
“Seated Figure”
Classic period, 200–650
Aragonite
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 76.8

Teotihuacan Figure
(Left)
This Teotihuacan figure is simple and clean, but simultaneously very dignified. Standing (sitting?) at 10 inches, this guy stands out amidst the fascinating Pre-Colombian and Native American collection in the third floor gallery. Aragonite is a common crystaline mineral (relative of Calcite); the Teotihuacan figure’s subtle brown swirls in the aragonite are likely from absorbed sand.

FUN FACT: Mollusks and other similar invertebrates may secrete organic aragonite, which is responsible for the iridescence of pearls.

Alexei von Jawlensky (Russian, active Germany and Switzerland, 1864–1941)
The Old Man (Yellow Beard), 1912
Oil on canvas
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.14

Alexei von Jawlensky, The Old Man
(Right)
When I first “met” Yellow Beard…I did not like him. I remember turning to my parents, who were touring the gallery with me, and saying “I don’t like him. He’s so angry looking.” (What an involved analysis, Aleah) But the more I interacted with him, the more I grew to love him. The vibrant hues typical of German Expressionism truly capture his loveable surliness…He’s like the grandpa that yells and mutters at all the kids, but you love him anyway. The bright red of his face and angular nose, his heavy skeptical brow, and forehead crinkles communicate his palpable personality. He has one of the most iconic faces in our collection, and cannot be missed.

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III (国貞) (Japanese, 1786–1865)
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
1852, Kaei 5, ninth month, year of the rat
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
69.122.20

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
(Left)
This Japanese woodblock print is currently on display with 4 other prints relating legends of kabuki theater. The Japanese have absolutely fascinating legends and stories (most of which come with a moral lesson), and I have been treated to quite a few during my time here. The story of this print revolves around samurai seeking revenge for the death of their beloved Lord. The woman in the print, Okaru, is the lady-in-waiting for the lord’s widow and offers to become a geisha in order to gather more funds to enact the revenge vendetta. A spy almost discovers the plot, one of the loyal samurai almost kills Okaru…Drama. But you have to come see the prints themselves to find out what happens.

Claudio Bravo (Chilean, 1936–2011)
Squash, 1985
Pastel on paper
86.3

Claudio Bravo, Squash
(Right)
Listed as one of Fine Art Connoisseur’s Great Contemporary Pastels in American Museums for May-June 2012, this piece is a PASTEL. I repeat: This image of Squash by Chilean artist Claudio Bravo is a PASTEL. I still cannot quite wrap my head around it. The piece is so realistic, so detailed, I thought it was a photograph at first. But no, my friends. This is done in pastel. The complementary use of red and green really makes this relatively ordinary still life pop. The red wall, the geometric patterned, textured carpet, and use of squash (a typical ingredient for a tanjine dish) tell of Morocco, where Bravo lived from 1972 until his death.

Lower Sepik River area, Papua New Guinea
“Commemorative Figure”
Before 1908
Wood, pigment, fiber
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.11

Commemorative Figure
(Left)
BIG RED! That is our affectionate name for this exceptional wooden carving from Papua New Guinea. And big he is—80 inches or 6 feet, 8 inches. I, in comparison, am 5 feet, 6 inches. This photograph does not accurately communicate how tall he stands. Visiting him in the third floor Raymond and Laura Wielgus Arts of Africa, the South Pacific, and the Americas gallery is a worthwhile experience! Given that he’s made of wood and fiber, I can never help but be awed by how well preserved he (and the rest of the third floor collection, for that matter) is. According to the Masterworks, this piece was made to honor an ancestor, possibly an ancestral hero or leader. He was likely kept in a men’s house and could be shown on occasions such as boys’ initiations. The powder that makes him “Red” is a associated with virility and male power, and red is a color of ritual.

The Rycroft Painter, Greek, Attic
Black-Figure Hydria
Ca. 520–510 BC
Clay, glaze, added red and white
Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 77.33

The Rycroft Painter
Black-Figure Hydria
(Right)
If I had a secondary concentration throughout my Masters degree, it would have been Ancient Greek art. I took two classes: a Greek Art & Archaeology survey and an art and archaeology of Pompeii lecture. Both were illuminating, my particular interest (outside of Hellenistic sculpture) lying with the painted ceramics. This black-figure hydria (water vessel) is an exquistite example of black-figure technique. Black-figure technique results in silhouetted black figures, their details incised or painted on in red or white after the firing process. This particular hydria depicts the half god, half mortal Herakles (Hercules) wrestling the fishtailed monster Triton. This story is exclusive to Athenian art in the second half of the 6th century BC. The shoulder of the vase has a Dionysian (of Dionysus, the god of wine) scene, complete with satyrs, and a pair of decorative eyes usually found on drinking cups.

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière (French, 1831–1900)
“Diana,” 1882
Bronze
Arthur R. Metz Collection; Gift of the Arthur R. Metz Foundation, 94.73

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière’s Diana
(Left)
I have always liked mythology, Greek in particular. The moon goddess, Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology), sister of the sun god Apollo, always reminded me of my best friend since childhood. Every day when I get off of the elevator to come to work, this lovely nude statue of the goddess Diana, complete with her archer’s bow and crescent coronet, was always there to greet me. She resides next to the elevator on the third floor of the museum. One could say she seems a little lonely, but honestly, the moon huntress would have probably prefered things that way! This bronze sculpture was the largest in a series of four different sizes that Falguière made of Diana. Falguière worked in neoclassicism and academic realism that frequently produced allegorical or mythological figures.

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
“Number 11,” 1949
Duco and aluminum on canvas
Jane & Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.87
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artist Rights Society, NY

Jackson Pollock’s Number 11
(Right)
Once again, I never was a “Modern Art Person.” I look at Duchamp and go “Huh?” (which is ironic because the IU Art Museum has one of two surviving sets of 1964 edition of Readymades…). But Pollock, thanks to this painting, I like. The color choice seems very unusual…muted sea foam green, deep maroon, mustard yellow, and then the strong contrast of black and white. Something about it though just works. The thickness of the drips and flicks and oozing gushes across the canvas make this so dynamic to see in person. The cake-layered quality of all of these quick, gestural splashes give this non-subjective painting a story. Recently returned from a sojourn in Japan where it was on display for the first Pollock retrospective in the country, this exceptional piece will hopefully be up on display again soon. I’m pretty convinced it’ll make you like Pollock, even if you think you don’t like Pollock.

Rob Shakespeare (American, born England, 1950)
Light Totem: Tower, Wall, Line, Sky, 2007
Site-specific installation
Photo courtesy of Matt James

Finally.

Rob Shakespeare’s Light Totem
We’ve talked about Light Totem a little bit before. It is our popular after-hours outdoor attraction that delights the entire community. I have spent made wonderful memories lying out in the front courtyard of the museum, feet up on the wall, watching the color shows dance with my boyfriend, my family, and my friends. And I am not the only one. Light Totem is an incredibly special installation that has something to offer everyone that visits the IU Art Museum and Indiana University campus. There’s a magical quality to the choreographed changing of the lights that visitors will never forget. This harmonious structure of art, light, and design brings our community together, and that is one of the greatest gifts that art can give.

I have had an exceptional Indiana University Art Museum adventure. Even though I’ve supplied you with a lot of words, words will never do the experience justice. I invite you to come visit the museum yourself: make memorable moments and find those pieces that are just waiting to inspire you. You will be so glad that you did.

Aleah Holland
Editorial Graduate Assistant 2011-2012