March 18, 2009 - Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Yinka Shonibare, MBE
March 18, 2009

Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Yinka Shonibare, MBE
A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child
2008 (detail)

Yinka Shonibare, MBE:
A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child
and Other Astonishing Works

First Solo Exhibition in the Western U.S.

March 14 – June 21, 2009

1130 State Street,
Santa Barbara, CA

Born in Britain to Nigerian parents, Yinka Shonibare, MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) is recognized internationally for his provocative sculptural installations, photographs and films that speak to cultural myths and misinterpretations of colonialism.

The exhibition represents the artist’s first U.S. solo show west of the Mississippi, and features works from 1999 to the present. The title installation, A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child, depicts an idyllic family riding human-powered flying machines modeled after 19th century drawings, alluding to the continual freedom sought by emigrants and tourists alike. Also included is a selection of works from prominent West Coast collections, as well as several recent works.

Best known is the artist’s sculptural work, which presents headless mannequins clothed in Victorian era dress made from atypical fabrics-brightly colored, wax-printed cloths commonly identified as African batiks. Essential to the work’s meaning is the use of textiles strongly associated with Africa yet originally produced in Europe and sold to Africans by Dutch traders in the 19th century. In an interview with Jan Garden Castro for Sculpture Magazine in 2006, Shonibare commented on his intentional, neatly headless creations, “…Basically it started as a joke, because I take working class fabrics from Africa and dress the aristocracy in those fabrics and then I take their heads off, but there’s no blood or violence. It’s witty in a knowing sort of way.”

The exhibition continues to underscore ideas of colonialism and subjugation with Shonibare’s model of the famous, ill-fated French frigate Méduse (Medusa, in English), outfitted with Dutch batik sails and menaced by an artificial wave. An enormous C-print photograph of the miniature ship and tempest hangs on the wall next to the vitrine. The notorious incident of the Méduse was recaptured several years later in French painter, Théodore Géricault’s iconic masterpiece, Le Radeau de la Méduse (The Raft of the Medusa), 1818-19. Like much of Shonibare’s works, Le Méduse plays off of grand artistic traditions in many compelling ways.

The exhibition is punctuated by the presentation of Shonibare’s first film in which the artist continues his quest to question power in relation to race, gender, and history. Un Ballo in Maschera (a Masked Ball) 2004 presents the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden in 1792 through the medium of dance. The characters don Shonibare’s trademark African batiks but remain ambiguous in identity and sometimes gender.

Shonibare was born in London in 1962, and he has had numerous exhibitions, awards, and residencies during the past 12 years. Most recently, his work has been featured at the Miami Art Museum, The National Gallery, London, the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Royal Opera House and Africa Centre in London. He is also the focus of a ten-year survey exhibition, Yinka Shonibare, MBE, that originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in fall of 2008 and travels to the Brooklyn Museum in New York in summer 2009.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE: A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child and Other Astonishing Works is made possible through the generosity of Anne and Houston Harte, Alice Willfong, and the SBMA Women’s Board.

The installation, A Flying Machine for Every Man, Woman and Child was commissioned by Miami Art Museum, Miami and is supported by the Funding Arts Network, Akerman Senterfitt and MAM’s Annual Exhibition Fund. Other works are on loan from the Seattle Art Museum; Eileen Harris Norton, Santa Monica; Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton, Santa Monica; and James Cohan Gallery, New York. The exhibition was organized for the SBMA by Julie Joyce, Curator of Contemporary Art.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA.
Open Tuesday – Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Closed Monday. Free every Sunday.

Katrina Carl
(805) 884-6430

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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