There's a moment near the very beginning of Marvel's Black Panther film when the camera pans up to show all the citizens who've come out to see Prince T'Challa's elevation to the throne of Wakanda. It's a colorful moment of pure Afrofuturist eye-candy as the camera scans up a cliff-face dotted with people wearing every color of the visible spectrum. The movie's costumes are a pan-African blend of tropes and style mixing sci-fi profiles with traditional fabrics and accessories. It's difficult to imagine a fashion-forward hit this big won't make an impression on ready-to-wear, making the Brooks Museum's timing just about perfect for the opening of a remarkable, eye-popping exhibit assertively titled "African Print Art Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style."
"African Print Art Now!" is a comprehensive exhibit collecting samples from more than 100 archival cloth patterns in addition to runway videos, a collection of black-and-white portraits from the golden age of African studio photography, and related work by contemporary visual artists.
"African print designs have been an important way of expressing political views, social values, and popular culture," says exhibit curator Suzanne Gott, who's been studying the artform and industry since 1990. "Sometimes cloth designs are named after a popular song or the latest colors that are capturing people's imagination," she says, explaining how patterns become a means of indirect communication.
The Brooks' chief curator Marina Pacini says the museum's proud to mount an exhibition "that celebrates the creativity, the culture, the artistry, and the global reach of African print fashion and the designers themselves."
"African Print Art Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style" at the Brooks Museum of Art February 24th-August 12th. Brooksmuseum.org