The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts

Resnick Pavilion
February 26, 2017–July 9, 2017
Inner Eye Exhibition Image

The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts features 100 outstanding sculptures and eye-catching textiles that explore how the arts and their visual regimes enable transitions from one stage of life to the next and from one state of being to another. Works reflect culturally specific notions of visuality and celebrate artists as agents of insight and transformation. Iconic figures, masks, initiation objects, and reliquary guardians guide people to spirit realms, to the highest levels of esoteric wisdom, and to the afterlife. Many works possess downcast eyes of contemplation and spiritual reverence, while others depict piercing projections of power and protection, or a multiplicity of eyes for heightened vigilance and awareness. The exhibition addresses various ways of seeing and encourages viewers to notice how works were made to look upon, gaze within, and see beyond ordinary limitations.

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman, with generous annual funding from the Judy and Bernard Briskin Family Foundation, Louise and Brad Edgerton,Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Jenna and Jason Grosfeld, The Jerry and Kathleen Grundhofer Foundation,Taslimi Foundation, and Lenore and Richard Wayne.

Image: Mask, Gabon, Kwele peoples, early-mid 19th century, private collection

A Conversation with Dr. Polly Nooter Roberts on The Inner Eye

Oro, the essence of communication, takes place in the eyes. —Yoruba axiom

Presenting a cross-cultural selection of works from west, central, and east Africa, spanning the 13th to the 19th centuries, The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts raises profound questions about the role of vision and culturally determined ways of seeing, both in our experience of the arts and perception more generally. Through over 100 sculptural figures, masks, initiation objects, royal emblems, reliquary guardians, and textiles, the exhibition explores a range of distinct African aesthetic philosophies in which vision and visual engagement with the arts can enable transitions between different stages of life, states of being, or even from human to spirit realms