Simon Frost, Bura
Works on Paper and Terra cotta from West Africa
February 10 – April 1, 2000
at Peter Blum SoHo
Works on Paper
This will be the first one-person exhibition of the work of Simon Frost in New York. He has lived here since the late 1980's. The works range from 1992 to the present. With few exceptions this group comprises nearly the total output of Frost's work whose painstakingly slow process of minute detail does not permit him to make more than an average of three to five pieces a year.
The drawings of Simon Frost could be defined as complex, delicate, labor-intensive, contemplative, or obsessive. His drawings also, however, come within the category or tradition of works which explore rigorous structural concerns in order to discover the range of the artist's hand and the language of mark-making.
Working in graphite, ink, watercolor or gouache, Frost studies and works each drawing for periods of months, often for over a year or more. Once a single motif is clearly and carefully defined and practiced, only then can the event of his compositions take shape.
Each work becomes an intricate embodiment of focus and concentration, line and grid, shape against shape. For Frost the act of drawing is a kind of threshold where the intuitive breaks beyond the limits of repetition, in which to render a fully realized structure, and to where a sense of order is given to the personal cartography of his imagination.
Simon Frost has been included in the exhibition, "Drawing the Line and Crossing It" at the Peter Blum Gallery in 1997, as well as in the exhibition, "Drawing. An Essay" at the Robert Miller Gallery in 1999.
Terra cotta from West Africa
The last few decades have brought to light an abundance of treasures of previously unknown cultures in the African continent. The site of the necropolis Bura-Asinda-Sikka was discovered by chance in 1975, as a young man from a nearby village found two heads while he was hunting and gave them to children to play with. It was not until three years later that his find was officially learnt about. The culture of Bura anthropomorphic terra cotta sculpture extends North of the Sirba river and South of the line Tera-Tillaberi, which is North West of Niamey, the capital of Niger. This region was also the territory of the ancient Songhai Empire, which was founded in 846 and acclaimed the largest empire in the Sudan by Al-Yakubi in 872.
A large number of terra cotta works were found which are assigned to the 3rd - 10th centuries. The Bura sculptures in the exhibition are thereby at least a thousand years old. They are richly ornamented, in some cases phallically designed, conical receptables which were buried with the opening facing down and supposedly filled with the clothes and other belongings of the defunct.
As in almost all parts of the world, it is precisely terra cotta finds that provide us with an insight into the artistic message of past civilizations. Furthermore, the medium of terra cotta is of particularly relevance. In almost all African societies, women only produce vessels and know ceramics, for only woman and potential mother, herself a vessel of future life, is allowed to produce vessels from a material which, in turn, is itself the mother of all life.
Most sculpture in the exhibition is of figural character. The idea on which such shapes are based originates from the desire to create an entity of character, vessel and material, a work authorized to set out on the path into another world. The material is imperishable in the earth and made of the same material of the latter, the origin of life. They are a great illustration of sophisticated firing techniques as well as artistic genius of the artist of that time and are astonishing in their refinement and expressive qualities. These sculptures should be admired not only for their artistic point of view but also from the standpoint of archaeology and history.