Indepth Arts News: |
"Masks: Faces of Culture"
2000-06-25 until 2000-09-17
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Whether covering the faces of Egyptian mummies, medieval
knights, Siberian shamans, Mardi Gras revelers, or Houston Astros
baseball catchers, masks play an essential role in the human
The human need to mask reveals a desire to take on other
identities, to transcend earthly limitations, to be renewed, and to be
protected. An intriguing new exhibition tells this story, recognizing
that masks are not only works of art but also cultural icons. Masks:
Faces of Culture presents nearly 140 masks, 30 of which are on
view with full costumes.
Masks are used in all sorts of human drama. Throughout history,
societies have incorporated masks into both initiation and burial
rites. Shamans use masks and costumes as a kind of armor while
warding off evil spirits. Masks are integral to masquerades of
renewal, such as harvest festivals, fertility festivals, and New Year
In the theater, actors don masks to transform into fictional
personae. On the battlefield, warriors wear armor and gas masks.
For astronauts and firefighters, masks function as vitally important
protective gear. At sporting events, football players need helmets,
and goalies rely on hockey masks.
Masks: Faces of Culture embraces the entire first mezzanine level
of the Caroline Wiess Law Building. The exhibition is organized
into sections, starting with a Paleolithic image from the Old World.
Then come masks for rites of passage, masks for festivals of
renewal, and female masks made to be worn by males. Theatrical
masks are next, followed by protective masks for fighting evil
spirits and for use in sports and other professions.
This visually powerful exhibition has a global reach.You will see
works from Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Haiti, India, Japan, Mali,
Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Sardinia, Switzerland, and many
other countries of the world. Some of the masks are fun, some are
frightening, and all are fantastic.
Papua New Guinea,
Northern New Ireland,
Tatanua Helmet Mask,
Late 19th century.
Wood, paint, opercula shell, lime plaster, plant
fiber, bark, bark cloth, rattan, coral.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston;
Museum purchase with funds provided by an
anonymous donor (90.256)
Copyright The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Photograph by Thomas R. DuBrock.