Devo long-neck nose bleed

rebeccaandmike0756

RandM send this real beaut for the weblog:

SPIEL Picture credit: Design Barney Bubbles, Photography Chris Gabrin, Picture courtesy of Rebecca and Mike.

Masks of Change

RandM Says: Previously this blog mentioned Barney and masks. John Coulthart recently pulled out a couple of interesting ones on his blog http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2009/02/11/hawk-things/ and so we thought maybe you’d like some too to make your (and everyone else’s) eyes bleed Itchy & Scratchy style! This picture shows a set of adverts Barney created for Devo’s single Jocko Homo / Mongoloid (Dev 1) released in 1978. These masks were applied directly onto freakishly long-necked mannequins usually used to display wigs. Barney worked with photographer Chris Gabrin on this. (However, Barney didn’t do the actual single sleeve itself.)

Pwoom Itook, King of the baKuba

David Wills: Talking of masks, I’m reminded that my interest as a teenager and later in West African masks has a Barney connect. I particularly liked the Kuba royal family series: The king, an ancestor figure, is called, Pwoom Itook, after whom I named  Chris Terry (he had the flat upstairs at Leigh Court with Atkins) with his nom-de-art, ‘Took’ , named after (or ‘for’ as they say here) the king with the elephants trunk on his head curving down over his nose, although I doubt that Chris Terry ever knew that. Fulcher didn’t get a Monica off an African, but my caricature of him, which I see around, redrawn by others, was derived from a classic Dogon helmet mask. The Fulcher/Barney’s caricature also bears an amusing resemblance to the traditional oil-painter’s palette.

These masks look referenced to Bruce Connors work too.

The Pit-Rivers Museum

My interest in masks was bred at the Pit Rivers Museum out in the wilds near Farnham, Dorset, England, that my Grandfather Townley used to take us to (from 1947 through ’58) in his immaculate 1928, Willys Overland Whippet. I later worked, part time in the ’80’s, buying African masks from Nigerian traders and selling retail in San Francisco. Those masks are with me often…

Rebecca and Mike say: unless there’s 2 different ones, or unless they moved, the pit rivers is in oxford, not dorset! have been there too!

Trips down Memory Lane

David Wills says: When my grandad’s chum, the old man Lord Pit-Rivers, divorced, he sold his collection all orf in ’62 and half of it ended up in Oxford at the Ashmolean (it should be called the Tradescant Museum, but I’ll let that pass) and the other went to the Met in NY. Pretty near the entire Metropolitan Museum African collection, including all the Benin bronzes and that iconic little ivory mask too (I think this example of the Kings ivory ‘passport’ miniature is not the one I saw but similar), images-1 all came from the Lord Pit Rivers mansion, just down from the old mill outside Wimborne Minster.

The road leading up to it was as narrow as the Whippet. It was the first place I drove a car, the old Chicago gangster auto with eyebrows, Toading it in the back lanes of ration-book England. The lane was an old Wimborne Boundary road I would guess, sunken in between two huge embankments for a mile and a half, so that before one attempted to drive along it, you had to make sure no one was coming by clambering up the bank, avoiding the stinging-nettles and scouting for approaching vehicular traffic in the distance.

Obscure Rock and Rolling fact #67

The site of the Pit Rivers Museum is not far from Amen Corner, after which the band was named. (Nowhere is not far from anywhere in England.) Oddly there are a couple of bands named for obscure Dorset cross-roads, can’t recall the others. The cross-roads there have cute discs atop the sign-posts with the name of the intersection, to be found miles out of the way in the countryside, deep in der Cranbourne Chase [ancient Kingly deer-hunt land, hi Deepinder].

Hell with the Fire Out

(Beware of incorrect facts – all this is from memory) Old Man Pit-Rivers named hisself after the native Americans, The Pit-River Indians, now called the Modoc, or the Achumawi, in Northern Cal/Oregon. There’s a great book, “Hell with the Fire Out” about the last successful stand of ‘Capt. Jack’ and the Indians there. ‘Rivers was an officer with the Brit Army and a collector amateur anthropologist, he bought not looted, had a huge collection of Americanoes. The Pit River Indians were, he supposed, on the border between the Plains and the Coastal Indians,  which he thought significant. (It wasn’t particularly – his theories of native dispersion were incorrect I think. See Schoolcraft of the West) The museum was bar-none the best museum of any I have ever been to in the world.

Heathen Possibilities

It was my first real job offer there, re-labeling the exhibits in dip-pen and Indian ink on folded cartridge ‘tents,’ but my dad discouraged me ‘cos of the heathen possibilities. The labels were loaded with information, stories attached to each –  images-3 images-4

including the baKuba royal-family masks. This example of a Kuba mask on the left is of the Queen, who was both the wife and the sister of the King Pwoom Itook, she was sworn to secrecy and wore a band of beads down over her nose and mouth.

The other mask is similar in idea to the Dogon helmet-mask that I based Barney’s caricature on (but this mask  is not the Dogon I saw). Both the Kuba King and Queen and the Dogon are now in the Met in NY. But I don’t think the fellow in charge at Pit Rivers when I was last there, the ol’ boy’s son, whom I spoke to, knew much about the masks.

The baKuba Dance

I was told by a traveling mask salesmen from Gabon and read in a monograph at Lawrence Hultberg’s store, the Artery, amongst other sources, including my imagination, that the Kuba royal masks were a new ‘cult’ that sprang up in the early 20th century.

They were made at the same time as the development of the Western European art, particularly by Picasso, Braque and Matisse, who were inspired by Africa. This family  of Kuba masks seem to be of a different inspiration than other, more ‘traditional’ masks – such as those Boule classic faces that Matisse liked. These Kuba masks were associated with a new dance craze and I suspect a grass-roots political movement, somewhere in West Africa, that spread around and became very popular in other places. (Ok this is vague, but you get the idea.)

The baKuba masks of 1908 have a definite designy look, as though painted by Picasso ten years later. You get the feeling there was a two way interchange of artistic concept, a Paulian synchronicity as Barney would say, between Africa and Europe at that time.

Any time I was at the Pit-Rivers Museum I only once saw another visitor except my family, and that figure in white may have been a ghost. Very Spooky.  Shrunken heads from Borneo. All there. No other museum comes close.

I remember seeing, in the Oxford Pit Rivers Ashmolean stash, a history of eating utensils, with detail of the French introduction of forks in the 16th century to avoid knightly knife fights at the table.

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