The Swing (After Fragonard), 2001. (Photos by C-M.)
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing and Yinka Shonibare’s solo show at the Brooklyn Museum is it. Don’t get me wrong. His sculptures are a wonder to look at, skillfully-crafted ensembles that meld African-style Dutch wax fabrics with 18th century and Victorian fashion — all arranged in dramatic dioramas. This is paired with an all-important subtext: the pieces insert representations of African-ness into traditional European art, reminding us that the African experience has long been a part of Western culture, even if it has been barely depicted on canvas. The effect is lush and beautiful and tragic. But, as enjoyable as it the show is to look at (boy, would I looove to rock one of them dresses), after a while, the repetitive imagery, relentlessly bright colors and hyper-hedonistic settings started to make me feel as if I’d eaten too much candy. Dizzy, disoriented, a little sick to my stomach. But, perhaps, that was the point.
On a side note: The Met’s Costume Institute might do well to study this show. It was wonderfully and elegantly installed — with some pieces incorporated into the museum’s period rooms. Who ever curated the Met’s sloppy cheese-fest otherwise known as Model as Muse (that ’60s fashion room with the lava lamp effects looked as if it was channeling the Woodstock museum) should get over to Brooklyn, stat! And start taking notes…
Yinka Shonibare MBE is at the Brooklyn Museum through Sept. 20.
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