Hollywood Icons, Local Demons
Ghanaian Popular Paintings by Mark Anthony
January 19 - May 22, 2011

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Ghanaian master artist Mark Anthony (born c.1943) is acclaimed for his signage-inspired paintings which attract audiences to itinerant theatrical performances or “concert parties” by local musicians and actors. This exhibition of Anthony’s work consists of sets of paintings for three different plays; 1) Some Rivals Are Dangerous, 2) In This World, If You Do Not Allow Your Brother to Climb, You Will Not Climb, and 3) When A Royal Dies, We Take Him Home.

During the twentieth century this type of painting became integrated into the arts of Ghanaian communities with playwrights often basing their work on well-known stories that explore current issues. Of particular interest are tales that reflect the social pressures brought about by rapid change and globalization. Each set portrays key scenes from the plays, designed to attract attention and promote discussion as people walk or ride by. The size and combination of image and writing make the works feel like an exhibition of bizarre roadside billboards. To make these oversize paintings transportable, the artist constructs them in two sections connected with hinges. They can then be folded and tossed on and off trucks—and they show the wear from this use and abuse.

Mark Anthony, rather than going to a European-run academic art school, apprenticed with his father and holds that his talent is a gift from God. Hollywood Icons, Local Demons was curated by Michelle Gilbert, visiting associate professor of Fine Arts at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.