Arts & Entertainment

Abstract Paintings & Tribal Masks Exhibition At New Hampshire Antique Co-Op

Now on view through May 31, 2020

      MILFORD - We are reaching out to you as we all navigate through this unsettling time. First and foremost, we hope that you all are healthy and staying safe from COVID-19.

      We have been extremely busy behind the scenes here at New Hampshire Antique Co-op for the past few weeks preparing for virtual antiquing and expanding our online inventory in anticipation of New Hampshire’s statewide order for the closure of all non-essential businesses, now through May 4.

      During this time, NHAC is offering curbside pick up, delivery, shipping and free storage.

New Hampshire Antique Co-op presents Abstract Paintings & Tribal Masks, an exhibition and sale of modernist 20th & 21st century paintings juxtaposed alongside a collection of Oceanic and African hand-carved masks and figural carvings. 

      The paintings in this exhibition include works by noted 20th & 21st century artists, such as New Hampshire Cubist painter Fannie Hillsmith (1911-2007), contemporary Monadnock region artist Christopher Myott (b. 1982), Peterborough based artist Nora Spicer Unwin (1907-1982), Mazhar Akyut (1911-2001, Turkish), Timothy Sanchez (b. 1945, American), Richard Lytle (b. 1935, American), Stephen Trefonides (b. 1926, American), as well as works from the school of Jackson Pollock. 

      Tribal masks and objects featured in the exhibition include works from the Baule, Pende, Senufo and Dan African tribes, as well as war and canoe prow shields from Papua New Guinea. Examples of helmet masks, hand-held masks, dance masks, buffalo and elephant masks, Sepik hooks and more are on view.     


Christopher Myott (b. 1982), Box Canyon, oil on wax panel,  42”h x 41 ̋


Mazhar Akyut (1911-2001), Bottles #3, oil on panel, 25”h x 32 ̋

      This combination of abstract art and tribal works in Abstract Paintings & Tribal Masks represents the influence of African tribal art on Cubist artists such as Picasso and Braque. The artists of the early 20th century were inspired by the bold abstract designs that they discovered in African tribal masks. They collected and used these works of art to influence their own styles of Cubism. Since abstract art does not attempt to capture an accurate depiction of visual reality, it instead uses shape, color, form and gestural marks to achieve its goal. In effect, Cubist artists were sparked by African culture to refresh the tradition of figure painting in Western Art and to move toward total abstraction. 

      Tribal masks have been used in African rituals and ceremonies for centuries, likely originating from the Paleolithic era. African tribal artists who made masks were highly respected in their societies and given special status. It is considered an honor to wear masks and only a few select members of a tribe are allowed to wear them—usually men or elders. 

      Making masks required artistic skill as well as knowledge of the spiritual world. Masks were believed to represent the spirits of animals or ancestors and the individual who wore the mask transformed into the spirit. Designed with human or animal characteristics or a mixture of both, tribal masks are typically made of wood, metals, fabric and stone, and are often embellished with seashells, animal hair, feathers, straw, horn, and teeth.

The most common uses for masks were in tribal dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honor distinguished visitors, at the funerals of important figures, for war and aggression against enemies, and for other ceremonial and sacred traditions.


African Igbo tribe helmet mask, hand carved wood, 21”h x 11”w x 13”d

      Abstract Paintings & Tribal Masks will be on view through May 31, 2020 in the Tower Gallery and accessible after we reopen at New Hampshire Antique Co-op.

      New Hampshire Antique Co-op is a destination shop for fine art, period furniture, folk art, Americana, silver, collectibles, porcelain, jewelry, books, vintage decor, unique antique finds and more. NHAC is one of the largest group antique shops in the state. Established in 1983 by the Hackler family, the shop features more than 200 dealers and 2,000 consignors. The shop is located at 323 Elm Street in Milford, New Hampshire, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

      For more information, please call (603) 673-8499 or visit online at or 

New Hampshire Antique Co-op

323 Elm Street | PO Box 732 | Milford NH 03055

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