Kota reliquary guardian

Illustration of Kota reliquary guardian figure by Frederic Cloth, courtesy Pulitzer Arts Foundation 

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation has an amazing show of African sculpture up, "Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art," with very innovative, high-tech components that include database manipulation and interactive video game design. But it all began with a guy, co-curator Frederick Cloth, sketching 2,000 African sculptures by hand.

The Pulitzer's public programming for the show emphasizes its innovative aspects, based on the fact that Cloth wrote an algorithm to sort the sculptures by formal variables – such as shape of head, shape of eyes, shape of mouth – once he had become conscious of these various forms by sketching them all.

While it makes perfect sense to program game designers into an art show that has a high-tech bent, I suggested to the folks at The Pulitzer that they should also schedule a sketchbook event, since sketching the sculptures was the basis of Cloth's practice. His co-curator Kristina Van Dyke is well aware of this fact. She arranged the show so his sketches are the first thing you see as you enter the exhibition, and the (incredibly beautiful) catalogue for “Kota” features Cloth’s drawings, rather than photographs of the sculptures.

Kristin Fleischmann Brewer, director of Public Projects for The Pulitzer, liked my suggestion so much she added a sketchbook event to their public programming for the show – and drafted me to lead the outing.

I wanted to include the gamers in residence, Rampant Interactive, in the sketchbook event. I thought it would be interesting to see them in the gallery sketching the sculptures that they have been modeling and programming around. They will be moving backwards from database to sketchbook, following Frederick Cloth’s journey in reverse.

Rampant had a 3D Modeling Tutorial scheduled at The Pulitzer at 1 pm on Saturday, January 23, so we decided to piggyback on that event. Immediately after the tutorial at 2 p.m., the sketchbook event will start. The sketching will evolve into a happy hour at The Pulitzer which will conclude at 5 p.m. Bring your sketchbook and pencil – no ink pens!

“Sketching Kota at The Pulitzer” will be held 2-5 p.m. Saturday, January 23 (which includes a happy hour) at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 3716 Washington Ave. “Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art” runs through March 19. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://pulitzerarts.org.

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