Aimé Mpané, a professor of sculpture who works in a folk-art style, is back at the African-themed Skoto with more work reflecting the harsh life in his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Into small squares of painted plywood, Mpané has carved a series of stark portraits with an adze. The traditional tool brings real and figurative violence to his youthful subjects, gouging, scarring, and disfiguring their faces. Mpané has also broken through the thin wood to leave jagged holes in cheeks and foreheads and, in some places, chipped away the features entirely. Surrounded by vibrant colors, these wounded souls, all unnamed, appear lost in forces they can’t control.
There are photographs, too, shot with a similar approach. Through a shattered, muddy window placed in front of the camera, we see naked boys in a sad river or a desolate, ramshackle cemetery. The trick is leveling, making you look at these scenes not as a moneyed voyeur, but as the indigenous poor. In Mpané’s hands, beauty is grim.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. Starts: Feb. 25. Continues through March 21, 2009