Intimate Encounter: Aime Mpane at Haines Gallery

SAN FRANCISCO—Aime Mpane’s work is instantly recognizable. The Congolese-born artist references the atrocities of his homeland, where for generations unchecked violence borne of disputes over natural resources has choked the nation and its people. Despite his challenging subject matter, Mpane’s aesthetic is hopeful defined by his deft manipulation of wood—his preferred medium—and the optimistic hues he employs.

After seeing Mpane’s work first at VOLTA NY and then at Skoto Gallery in New York last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find an intimate presentation of his work tucked away in the rear exhibition space of Haines Gallery, where paintings by Mike Henderson are currently on view in the main gallery.

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The Mpane exhibition features an elegantly carved, life-sized sculpture; boards transformed into portraits of Congolese youth by meticulously subtracting surface layers; and a large-scale work composed of wood strips, held together by a mesh backing, painted and then broken into pieces resembling tile squares.

A full-scale exhibition of Mpane’s work was on view at the San Francisco gallery last year from July 9 to August 31, 2013. Haines promoted the show as the artist’s first West Coast solo exhibition.

Last month, Mpane visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where his installation “Congo: Shadow of the Shadow” is on view. He talks about the work, which is on loan from the Smithsonian, in this video.

All photos by Arts Observer

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