Saturday, April 25, 2009

ART OF THE SOUTH SEA ISLANDS


I love the art of the South Pacific Islands, which is also called "oceanic art."  There are striking similarities in the styles of islands spread thousands of miles apart, and it's hard to resist the idea that all these cultures had some common country of origin. I'd guess a combination of ancient India and aboriginal Australia, but what do I know?






This art is memorable because of it's complete "otherness." Europeans just don't think this way. The make-up and masks seem to threaten with weird, supernatural horror. 



But the difference is greater than that.  If you can judge by the sculpture, island people seem to have had more of a sense of humor than Europeans. A lot of them were of the opinion that their their neighbors were outrageously funny-looking, if not downright ugly, and they took every opportunity to lambast them with carved caricatures that they set up outside their huts. No wonder they were at war all the time. 



Gee, maybe some of them (above) were kind of...beauty deficient. 




I've seen lumpy heads like this one (above) plenty of times in the National Geographic. I guess that's what happens when you live around trillions of bugs.



There's a theory that primitive people who go around naked don't think of themselves as naked. As long as they have that little string around their waists they feel completely clothed. Woe to the uncouth villager who forgets to put his string on in the morning.



Some sculptures (above) appear to have been caricatures, pure and simple.




Others (above) seem to have had deep, mystical significance. 



Here (above) Balinese style seems to merge with an island sensibility. And look at the symmetry. It's odd how primitive man is often so wedded to symmetry



Nice mask (above)! A flat out caricature!



I didn't know that Sammy Davis Jr. (above) used to live in the tropics.









These masks from the 19th Century all look contemporary. I just can't believe they're as old as claimed.


16 comments:

Craig said...

The second from the bottom looks like an ancestor of - - or answer to - - Mr. Punch.

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Fun stuff!
What do you think of 50s and 60s American Tiki Culture? (bowling alleys, hotels, bachelor pads, etc)?

Anonymous said...

grow up dude. How many great sculptures have you made?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: These guys were definitely better sculptors than I am. I opened by saying that I love this art, and I was sincere.

Josh: Tiki culture is great!

kellie said...

Hi Eddie, here's an invitation to fritter away your time, should you feel so inclined.

I love the fretwork ears on number nine!

Bob said...

This type of art is great. The museum in baltimore BMA, has a whole floor with masks and figurines from cultures from the South Pacific. They're a lot of fun to look at. There is also art from the mid east there as well. Their art is also very humorous and look more spontaneous than western art does. I wonder why western art likes to romanticize things, I find it to be a weird phenomenon. Anyways, thanks for this post it was fun to read and perhaps you could do a post about how these oceanic artists were caricaturists in some respect.

Geneva said...

I'm taking a class about the art of Africa-- it's a lot more interesting than I thought it'd be. It seems to have such a more jovial sensibility to it than lots of European art at around the same time. Lots of the cultures were really interested in caricature before the rest of the world was. It's pretty great!

By the way; hello! I always feel weird making an initial unsolicited comment, but I found you through John's blog some time ago. I like your posts!

Clarity said...

It looks a lot like African tribal art so I would go with that source. "Africa is where the human story began" as they say.

Lester Hunt said...

Dear Anonymous,

So courageous of you to put your name out there! But next time, be sure to read the post before you comment on it.

Eddie,

This was enlightening. I hadn't noticed the element of caricature in this kind of art. Thanks!

Jorge Garrido said...

Anonymous, shut the fuck up.

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey Eddie:

I was the 1700th person to view yer profile. Congrats on the continued popularity!

- trevor.

Kali Fontecchio said...

These are great, thanks Eddie!

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Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Tevor: 1700 people read my profile!!!??? Geez, I thought I was the only one who read those things!

Geneva: Thanks! African art looks a bit like oceanic art. Is that just a co-incidence?

Kellie: Aaaargh! I can't allow myself to make a list like that. I know I'd obsess over it and lose a whole night!

kellie said...

Lose a night's sleep? Hell, no, I was done by four in the morning, well, four-thirty maybe.

tellurian said...

Nice one! I like the masks from India too.