September 6, 2012 - September 30, 2012
Image © Phyllis Galembo
“Galembo’s images are both portraits and documents, but their combination of dignity, conviction and formal power–especially their vibrant colors . . . gives them a votive aspect similar to European paintings of saints or kings.”
–Roberta Smith, The New York Times
Blue Sky is proud to present “Maske,” an exhibition featuring recent photographs by Phyllis Galembo. In her recurring travels throughout Africa and the Caribbean over the past thirteen years, Galembo shoots revelers during traditional rituals, rites, ceremonies, and festivals. Masking is a complex, mysterious and profound tradition in which participants transcend the physical world and enter the spiritual realm. In her vibrant images, Galembo exposes an ornate code of political, artistic, theatrical, social, and religious symbolism and commentary. In these arresting portraits, Galembo investigate the dualities in masquerade: man/god, good/evil, power/oppression, past/future. Titled after the Haitian Kreyòl word for mask, “Maske” is the first comprehensive collection of these masquerade portraits.
Phyllis Galembo has exhibited extensively in museum exhibitions, including Blue Sky in 1981. Most recently, Call and Response was Galembo’s collaboration with Nick Cave at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in conjunction with Spoleto Festival USA. Galembo’s exhibition West African Masquerade was at the Tang Museum in 2007 and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in 2008. Many of her prints were included in Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou at the American Museum of Natural History in 1998-99. Her exhibition Manifestations of the Spirit was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 2001-2. Galembo is also the author of Divine Inspiration from Benin to Bahia, Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti, and Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween and Masquerade Costumes. Her work is included in numerous public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and New York Public Library. Galembo is Professor of Photography at the State University of New York; she lives in New York City.