August 28–October 9, 2015
Opening and artist talk: Friday, September 4, 4:30–7:30pm
Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery
370 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA 19041
Hours: Monday–Friday 11am–5pm, Saturday–Sunday
noon–5 pm, and Wednesday until 8 pm
T +610 896 1287
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What kinds of buildings “belong” in Africa? How is a country’s national story told through its architecture? When should the structures of the past be dispensed for the future? The Past is a Foreign Country is the first solo exhibition in North America by the Ivorian artist François-Xavier Gbré, whose photographs from West Africa and France survey relics and narratives of the built environment.
Commissioned by the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, The Past is a Foreign Country features site-specific installations of immersive wallpaper prints and a highly detailed network of more than 50 studies of buildings and architectural fragments. Central to the exhibition is a selection of images from multiple series Gbré created throughout West Africa between 2009 and 2015, a chronicle of imposing governmental structures, shuttered factories, and incomplete homes.
The past in Gbré’s photographs is foreign and unfinished. Heroic military statues in Bamako, Mali, claim victories for a nation beleaguered by violence. Housing developments in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, seek to erase the memory of an urban slum. A new car becomes the futurist symbol of an emergent middle class. But Gbré doesn’t propose a comprehensive history of French colonialism in West Africa or of the turbulent growth of post-independence African cities. Instead, united by a methodical, often distanced perspective on architecture and landscape as a form of documentary evidence, his images summon the personal experience of public space and the social aspirations encoded in concrete, rebar, clay and dust.
Curator: Brendan Wattenberg, Director of Exhibitions, The Walther Collection, New York.
François-Xavier Gbré was born in 1978 in Lille, France. After studying at the École Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques in Montpellier, he worked in fashion and design photography in Milan. This experience led him to explore African stories through landscape and architecture. Gbré’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Africa and Europe, including Abroad, Art Twenty One, Lagos, Nigeria; Surfaces and Fragments, Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; DAK’ART: The 11th Dakar Biennale, Dakar, Senegal; FLOW, Kyoto City University of Arts Gallery, Japan; We Face Forward: Art from West Africa Today, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, U.K.; Synchronicity II, Tiwani Contemporary, London; and Rencontres de Bamako–The African Biennale of Photography. In September 2015, he will participate in The Lay of the Land, an exhibition on emerging African photographers at The Walther Collection in New York. Gbré lives and works in Abidjan.
The Past is a Foreign Country is accompanied by a monograph designed by Thumb / Luke Bulman with contributions by Emmanuel Iduma, Brendan Wattenberg and Susanna D. Wing.
Gallery talk with curator Brendan Wattenberg and artist François-Xavier Gbré
Friday, September 4, 4:30–5:30pm
About Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery
Part of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery aims to extend cultural literacy through the display and analysis of work across visual and material media. Envisioning exhibition spaces as active workshops for the exploration of visual culture, the Exhibitions Program partners with faculty, students and visiting curators to design exhibitions that connect curricular interests and scholarship with contemporary artistic practice.