by Elenore Welles
|(G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Santa Monica) The best way to understand a culture is through direct experience. For the viewer who must have second hand experience, the aesthetic impulse in appreciating a work of art can be enhanced by an understanding of the context.
Dr. Frank Lambrecht's photographs offers us entré into an exotic world from the past. From 1945 to 1949 he served as a health officer for the Belgian Congo Red Cross. There he photographed his daily experiences with the Mabudu and Mangbetu tribes. Considering the present dire news from the Congo, Dr. Lambrecht's black and white photos take on a particular poignancy.
His compelling images, evoked in rich dark tones, convey the essence of a society at the brink of immense changes. Capturing rituals, ceremonies and societal mores, his photos reveal changes in fashion from nudity to cotton dresses. He exposes the everyday quality of village life: people tilling the soil, performing dances and behaving according to society's dictates. A photo of the ceremonial tipoye dance shows participants in elaborate headdress being carried through the village.
Jungle surroundings and various states of undress may seem exotic to Western eyes. Yet people at play or performing daily tasks reveal affinities. The intensity of the drummers in Mabudu Drummers, for example, echo that of musicians everywhere. Children gathered at the local watering hole, uniformed Congolese Boy Scouts, mothers with children, or the village hairstylist with her customer all evoke a familiarity that crosses cultural boundaries.
Jessica Rice, Dr. Lambrecht's daughter, was born in Belgium but as a young girl lived in Central Africa. Rice was influenced by her father's photos and by the angularity found in African art. Her native Flemish landscape and time spent in Mexico come into play as well. Her paintings express a kaleidoscopic world of industrial scenes, architectural landscapes, and family gatherings. Formal training in the United States reveals a fauve-cubist spirit with elements of social realism. However, her colorful evocations of cityscapes, carnivals, crowded restaurants and domestic scenes reveal a more romanticized version of social-realism.
"L'Atic," o/c, 72 x 48", 1998.
"Chez Edwards (Barry Dock),"
"Mabudu Drummers,1946, Belgian
|The fragmented play of line and the combination of muted and bright colors in Des Muscien Folkloriques comprises a more static composition. Three musicians stand frontally holding their instruments, as though posing for a formal portrait.
Rice achieves a celebratory tone in her evocations of family gatherings. Paintings depict friends and family at the beach, on picnics or dining. In L'Anniversaire, for example, we are witness to a party. Using multiple perspectives, a table tilts upward to reveal a frontal view of gift and cake.
Rice's skill with the pallet knife and her bravura use of color imbue her works with a sense of tactile immediacy.