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Allen Memorial Art Museum Explores Astronomy in Art and African Sculptures in New Exhibitions
The exhibition demonstrates how two distinct disciplines converge as both astronomers and artists struggle—as the earliest scientists and stargazers did—with fundamental questions about space, time, and the human place in an expanding universe.
OBERLIN, OH.- The Allen Memorial Art Museum opens two exhibitions today, the first shows sculpture from Africa and the second explores astronomy in art.

Engaging Spirits, Empowering Man: Sculpture of Central and West Africa
The dynamic sculptural works exhibited here ––from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and other African countries––were chosen from a private collection to supplement the AMAM’s permanent collection of African art, which has a strong emphasis on West African art of the Yoruba peoples.

While they are aesthetically engaging, the masks, furniture, and other works on view also played a critical role in the spiritual life of the community. These functional objects were used in public and private rituals, including initiations, masquerades, processions, and funerals, seeking to mediate the physical world of man with the closely related world of spirits and ancestors. Themes such as fertility and women, temporal power, initiation, agricultural prosperity, and divination emerge as focal points of traditional African life, engaging both the individual and the community.

This exhibition was curated by Mara Spece (OC ’10) to support a variety of courses taught at Oberlin College in fall 2009.

Starry Dome: Astronomy in Art and Imagination
Four hundred years after Galileo Galilei became the first astronomer to look through a telescope, the sky continues to inspire scientists and artists alike. This exhibition, drawn entirely from the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Oberlin College Library, uses early lunar maps, star charts, and groundbreaking treatises by scientists such as Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton to examine the necessity of close observation and illustration in the development of astronomy. The works on view equally explore the allure of the sky across diverse times and cultures, from the full moon often seen in Japanese prints to the imaginative, personalized cosmologies of modern and contemporary artists such as Joseph Cornell, Ansel Adams, James Rosenquist, and Vija Celmins. The exhibition demonstrates how two distinct disciplines converge as both astronomers and artists struggle—as the earliest scientists and stargazers did—with fundamental questions about space, time, and the human place in an expanding universe.

This exhibition, curated by Anna-Claire Stinebring (OC ’09), supports the Oberlin College course “Introductory Astronomy” and celebrates the Year of Science and the International Year of Astronomy.



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