As a Bruin, I bleed Blue and Gold in more ways than just one; supporting Fowler and Hammer is just one of many ways in which I continue to be an active part of my Alma Mater. Thus I attended the opening party for the PST: LA/LA exhibitions at both Hammer and Fowler a few weeks back. Each of these wonderful museums still holds a very special place in my heart since my undergrad days. Whereas Hammer threw the house out the roof and hosted a shindig for a few thousand hipsters and the art glitterati of Los Angeles, Fowler managed to do something pretty magical. They achieve an opening party that felt incredibly intimate, even though I was surrounded by a few hundred people. Furthermore, they hosted opening ceremonies back to back on two separate days; Axe Bahia is truly a glorious observance of Bahia's culture and Fowler made absolutely sure I celebrated accordingly.
"Axe Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis" is one of those exhibitions that keeps you guessing, learning, dancing, engaged, inquisitive, and all the happy things exhibitions are actually supposed to do all the time. The subject matter and the choice of artwork alone is a lengthy conversation about an Afro-Brazilian society that seems short of magical.
The accompanying exhibition (because there's two), is also beautifully executed "Lineage Through Landscape: Tracing Egun in Brazil" (shown here) perfectly ties in with Axe Bahia, both of which serve to bring focus onto a magnificent living culture with some incredibly ancient yet contemporary traditions.
Now here is one thing Fowler achieved which no other PST: LA/LA exhibition has come close to doing; they brought over an Ebomi (Candomble Elder) from Bahia, a wonderful little old lady by the name Nancy de Souza e Silva, better known as Dona Cici. Now unlike the rest of the PST: LA/LA guests of the many museums in the city, Dona Cici is not just an artist, she is an Ebomi; she lives this culture, she knows this culture, she is this culture. Fowler brought a foreign culture to LA, more than just art, more than just tradition, not just curators and artist speaking about Bahia, Culture itself! Culture rarely in existence in our fine city.
Dona Cici was wonderful, she spoke to the people about culture, she enlightened and blessed the guest during the various ceremonies. She blessed Fowler in the tradition of Candomble (a religion practiced in Brazil) at a blessing ceremony which took place the morning after the exhibition opening (I attended alongside most of the people who came to the night before; so for those keeping score Fowler managed to figure out how to engage attendees twice in a 16hr period... so all the brownie points to Fowler). The ceremony was wonderful, short, sweet, regal, and then we got dancy again just like the night before when Viver Brasil made us get our samba on.
So on top of an already beautiful exhibition of artworks that come from Bahia, Fowler also gave us the gift of samba via Viver Brasil (I have personally been listening to samba since the opening non-stop and thank you again, Fowler, for letting me get my dance on). Viver Brasil is an Afro-Brazilian Los Angeles based Cultural Institution/Dance Company that performed at Fowler on the opening night, and the morning blessing ritual.
On each occasion, Viver Brasil made every attendee (self-included) go from passive enjoyment to dancy and bouncy sambaesque engagement, in under half a song flat. The dancers wore the most exquisitely embroidered hand-made dresses that allowed them to become the embodiment of Orixas (kindly notice that I am not an Afro-Brazilian scholar, and I am writing that which I learned because of Fowler). Each song was performed live, as the dancers are accompanied by a wonderful group of musicians, and on the morning of the ceremony Dona Cici even accompanied the group ensemble and played music while we all partook in a dancing celebration.
Fowler is an organization unlike any other in this city. They have a permanent collection of art from around the globe that includes the most spectacular El Anatsui (dare I say better than Broad's). They bring forth contemporary art deeply rooted in the various living traditions still alive all around the world. They go far beyond exhibiting art and creating lectures to generating an active engagement which includes dance, art-making, and a real desire to celebrate culture, which ultimately bestows a great deal of active knowledge on to their attendees, who can then engage with cultures unknown to them.
"Axe Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis" has definitely been a highlight for me during my exploration of the PST: LA/LA exhibitions. The art is spectacular, which includes a fascinating artwork made of sugar (above) which has recently begun bleeding entitled "Delirios de Catarina" by Caetano Días, the curatorial concept is academically thought out and spectacular as per usual, the design team is so confident that there is art in the ceiling, and the engagement specialist managed to get me and hundreds of my now closest friends to dance samba. All and all another epic art experienced delivered by Fowler.
So dear Fowler, Obrigado!
(Thank you in Portuguese as per google).