Here I Am, A Concrete Man, Throwing Himself Into Abstraction
From January 18 to March 10, 2018, Stevenson, Cape Town will present Here I Am, A Concrete Man, Throwing Himself Into Abstraction, an exhibition of recent works by South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere.
Using sculpture, installation and drawing, Wa Lehulere continues his questioning of historical narratives while exploring new formal possibilities.
In Here I am, a concrete man, throwing himself into abstraction, taken from a line in his father’s journal, the artist expands his visual vocabulary. Wood is deconstructed and singed; metal is reconstituted and glass is weighted as Wa Lehulere exploits familiar materials to create unexpected objects.
This exploration of movement from concretisation to the abstract hinges on refracting tensions rather than linear resolution. Wooden structures tethered to and bound by shoelaces reference the childhood game of catching birds, but the objects do not disguise their predatory nature even in their stillness. Both bird and catcher are evoked as the works offer multiple statements from a single utterance, suggesting both innocence and incarceration.
Glass bottles contain unreadable messages, and musical objects such as speakers and piano keys maintain the silence of unsung songs. In Here I am, a concrete man, throwing himself into abstraction Wa Lehulere foregrounds the poetics of the suspended and the implied, excavating the metaphoric fecundity of the unrealised gesture.
Kemang Wa Lehulere has recently won the Malcolm McLaren Award presented by Performa for his work I Cut My Skin to Liberate the Splinter. The prize is bestowed in recognition of artists who stage ‘an innovative and thought-provoking performance’ during the New York-based biennial.
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