press release

Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, on view at the Seattle Art Museum June 18 to September 7, provides an updated look at 21st-century evolutions of the mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise. Organized by SAM, Disguise will travel to the Fowler Museum at UCLA from October 18, 2015 to March 13, 2016 and to the Brooklyn Museum from April 22 to September 11, 2016.

These masks reflect our time, when digital culture is constantly changing the visual framework. Older forms of masks in wood and fiber are now joined by masks that stream with video glitches, take a role in immersive environments or launch into space in virtual reality. With Disguise, visitors can see how masks are a catalyst for artists, as they present fresh visions of masquerade and the shared instinct to hide from ourselves and from each other.

For this exhibition, SAM's Curator of African and Oceanic Art Pamela McClusky, and Consultant Curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi sought out contemporary artists from Africa and of African descent to create new installations, visions, and sounds for the exhibition. These artists fill the galleries with inventive avatars and provocative new myths, taking us on mysterious journeys through city streets and futuristic landscapes. Ten artists are each given a gallery to fill, many with works commissioned just for this exhibition. Fourteen other artists have singular works or series on view.

Jakob Dwight / Brendan Fernandes / Nandipha Mntambo / Emeka Ogboh / Wura-Natasha Ogunji / Walter Oltmann / Zina Saro-Wiwa / Jacolby Satterwhite / Sam Vernon / Saya Woolfalk

In addition, there will be works in the exhibition by Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou / Nick Cave / Edson Chagas / Steven Cohen / Hasan and Husain Essop / Alejandro Guzman / Gerald Machona / Jean-Claude Moschetti / Toyin Odutola / Ebony G. Patterson / Sondra R. Perry / Paul Anthony Smith / Iké Udé / William Villalongo

"While masks were exported in vast quantities to become a signature art form representing the African continent in the 20th century, masquerades were left behind," says McClusky. "Disguise attempts to bridge the gap between the mask observed in isolation and the masquerade experienced as a catalyst."

"Throughout the exhibition genres are blurred," says Massaquoi. "This blurring forces audiences to shift their attention back and forth between multiple narratives and ways of storytelling. These alternating perspectives will hopefully raise a lot of questions for spectators: What is being told? How is it being told? From whose perspective? Museum goers are challenged to query their frames of reference."

Disguise is accompanied by an illustrated catalog with statements by ten of the artists featured in the exhibition, an essay by Pamela McClusky and an interview with Erika Dalya Massaquoi. The catalog is co-published by the Seattle Art Museum and Yale University Press.

This exhibition is made possible by donors to the SAM Fund for Special Exhibitions. Presenting Sponsors are ArtsFund, The Boeing Company and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Lead grant provided by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Major Sponsors are 4Culture and Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS). Additional support provided by the ADAA Foundation Curatorial Award administered by the Association of Art Museum Curators, Christopher and Alida Latham and contributors to the SAM Fund.