Exhibition room 3. Calixte Dakpogan

Calixte Dakpogan’s Vodun heritage is intrinsic to his work. Born to a family of blacksmiths, he grew up in the Goukoumé district of Porto Novo, Benin, a district dedicated to Ogun, the god of iron and protector of cars [...]. The abundance of car wreckages in Porto Novo has provided Calixte Dakpogan with an inexhaustible source of materials. Together with his brother Théodore, he began to use scavenged car parts to create standing figures, following directly in the tradition of Fon statues made from scrap iron in the early nineteenth century. [...] Since 1990, Calixte has worked independently, using salvaged metallic and plastic elements to create anthropomorphic figures and masks. [...] His creations, full of talent, humour, and stories, are imbued with a contemporary imagination and an astounding inventiveness.

Source: Contemporary African Art Collection www.caacart.com/pigozzi-artist.php?bio=en&m=42

The issues of the Demoiselles, both stylistic and expressive, remain embedded in African and other non-Western artists’ interpretations of the subject that connected Picasso to African art in the first place: the mask.

[...] Dakpogan scavenges car parts and other discarded materials to construct masks such as La mort debout (Death Standing: Resuscitated), works that often address history and mortality through both their titles and their use of reclaimed objects: “I work with recovered materials,” Dakpogan has said, “since they are weighed down by time and transformed by usage.”

This sense of history extends from the artist’s immediate situation to the global environment: “All of my sculptures speak of my country, my culture, my surroundings, and my beliefs, as well as the entirety of my worldview.” In a sense, Dakpogan passes through Picasso’s appropriation of African masks in the Demoiselles, and the innovations of modernist sculpture, to create his own masks as a critique of Western interaction with Africa.

Source: exhibition catalogue for “Post-Picasso: Contemporary Reactions,” Michael FitzGerald