The Barnes Foundation Magic Ladders exhibit

February 2, 2014 It's the work of a British artist of Nigerian descent whose views of the role of art in life closely match those of the Barnes founder, Albert C. Barnes.

"This exhibition is a solo show for Yinka Shonibare," says Barnes Foundation Curator Judith Dolkart, "Yinka and Albert C. Barnes are and were interested in enlightenment, education, opportunity, and social mobility."

The exhibition derives its title from a sculpture that the Barnes Foundation commissioned the artist to create.

"This is the first commission by the Barnes since Albert C. Barnes commissioned the Dance in 1930," Dolkart says. "There are three ladders and the rungs of the ladders are constructed of replicas of books that were in Barnes' library. And the children are climbing the ladders seeking opportunity through education."

Magic Ladders incorporates a variety of media-from painting and photography to installation and sculpture. All of the works explore questions of identity and the complicated relationship between Europe and Africa and Dolkart says "running throughout all of this media is Yinka Shonibare's very distinctive use of colorful patterned Dutch waxed textiles, which for him delivers this critique of hybridity and culture."

The fabrics are commonly associated with West Africa but are actually produced in the Netherlands. "These are pieces that are beautiful. They're provocative. They're funny. But they also have a message," says Dolkart Magic Ladders runs through April 21st at The Barnes Foundation.

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