The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art presents Nkame, a solo exhibition of the late Cuban printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967-1999), who produced an extraordinary body of work central to the history of contemporary printmaking. Nkame was named one of the “Top Ten Exhibitions in the World” by ARTnews magazine and one of the “Top Ten Exhibitions in New York City” by The New York Times, in 2017.
Nkame presents 48 prints and audiovisual materials that encompass a wide range of the artist’s production from 1984 until her untimely passing in 1999. Ayón is highly regarded for her signature technique of collography, a printing process in which a variety of materials are collaged onto a cardboard matrix. Her palette of black, white and gray adds drama and mystery to her prints, many of them produced on a large scale.
Ayón took on the subject of the Abakuá Secret Society while still an art student. This brotherhood arrived in Cuba in the early 19th century, carried by enslaved Africans from southeastern Nigeria, and became a nucleus of protection and resistance for its members.
“Ayon´s masterful collographs gave the oral Abakuá legend a powerful iconography. But her intention was not perpetuation of the myth, but rather transgression of it,” said the Cuban-based independent curator Cristina Vives. “Her treatment of the myth requires sharp, active and critical engagement. Unfortunately, her work was not always afforded such rigorous understanding.”
“The Abakuá myth,” Vives noted, “served Ayón as a vehicle for the post-modern travesty which characterized young Cuban artists in the 1990s after the collapse of European socialism. She expressed the profoundly social and liberating message contained behind the veil of a myth.”
The fully illustrated book, Behind the Veil of a Myth, accompanies the exhibition, and was recently edited by the Estate of Belkis Ayón; Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston; and the Estudio Figueroa-Vives, Havana. Nkame is organized by the Estate of Belkis Ayón and has been presented at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles; El Museo del Barrio, New York; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston.