This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened The Malcolm X Steles, an exhibition by Philadelphia native Barbara Chase-Riboud. This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of her iconic sculptures, the Malcolm X Steles. The exhibition brings together more than forty works from the United States and Europe. This is also Chase-Riboud’s first solo museum exhibition in more than ten years.
This collection of sculptures dedicated to Malcolm X have been likened to contemporary interpretations of the steles erected in various parts of the ancient world to commemorate important people and events. This expressive melding of forms and materials is a combination that conveys a subtle tension and unity among opposites, very expressive of the life of Malcolm X. Even in self examination (in the Autobiography of Malcolm X), Malcolm X depicted his life's contradictions. The exhibition also includes sculptures that share an affinity with the Malcolm X series, such as All That Rises Must Converge/Gold and Tantra #1.
The sculptures in this exhibit are both breath taking and thought provoking, towering above visitors, boasting bright reds, golden bronzes and deep black hues of metal, and wool and silk thread. The first four sculptures in this series in were developed in1969, inspired by the civil rights movement and her political and personal experiences while living in France and traveling to North Africa, China, and the Soviet Union. The Malcolm X steles are powerful beacons dedicated to the possibility of cultural integration.
Chase-Riboud, a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and the Yale University School of Design and Architecture, has lived in Paris since 1961. For more than four decades, Barbara Chase-Riboud has integrated mediums and materials in uniquely expressive ways to create a remarkable body of literary and visual arts.
She is an internationally acclaimed visual artist whose widely exhibited work has been seen in solo exhibitions at the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her towering public sculpture Africa Rising stands in the African Burial Ground National Monument in Lower Manhattan. Chase-Riboud is also an award-winning poet and writer, known for her books of poetry From Memphis and Peking and Portrait of a Nude Woman as Cleopatra and the historical novels Sally Hemings, Echo of Lions, and Hottentot Venus.
The exhibition will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until January 20th, 2014.