cover image The Progress of Love

The Progress of Love

Edited by Kristina Van Dyke and Bisi Silva. Menil Collection (Yale Univ., dist.), $55 (176p) ISBN 978-0-300-18493-8

Published in concert with a collaborative project between the Menil Collection in Houston, Lagos’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Mo., this beautifully designed book gathers the work of 30 artists from Africa and the African diaspora to examine the virtues, complexities, and challenges of love. Accompanying essays discuss the difficulty of talking about love in a translational context, the effect of globalization on local identity and custom, the importance of performance in African culture, and the way artists address loss, romantic or otherwise. Full-color illustrations show artists investigating the question posed by Van Dyke in her essay, “Love and Africa”: “What in love is timeless and universal and what is culturally and historically specific?” Zoulikha Bouabdellah renders 300 Arabic words for love in lacquer; Malik Sidibé photographs young couples in Western clothes dancing the night away in 1960s Bamako, Mali; Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “‘Untitled’ (Perfect Lovers)” uses out-of-synch wall clocks to evoke romantic disconnection; Zina Saro-Wiwa’s video stills show faces contorted in the performance of sadness. The artworks travel the entire emotional landscape, touching on self-love, familial affection, flirtation, forbidden feelings, marriage, and heartbreak. Together, the three exhibitions reveal that when artists turn their focus to love, they are actually expressing, in the words of Van Dyke, “what it means to be human.” 105 color illus. (Feb.)