Must See Exhibitions This April
by Ladun Ogidan
The month of April promises to deliver highly anticipated exhibitions at some of Africa’s leading art galleries. We present to you the must-see exhibitions:
Under a Boiling River
April 6—April 29
27-year-old artist Mia Chaplin is seduced by the powers of impasto yet succumbs to the traditional genres of still life, figure, and flower studies in her work. The beautiful rendition of drapery is an important conceptual tool and subject matter for the artist.
“Some of the paintings invite you to enter into them while others are closed doors. I want to set up tensions between the works to reveal an uncomfortable position between what is known and what is concealed,” she says, writing about the ambiguity of public and private dynamics in the contemporary world. “These paintings act as membranes between me and the viewer. The cloth acts as a symbol of shame and a need for protection.”
Delighting in an interest in the outside world, Chaplin reads widely in fields related to shamanic practice and witchcraft. It’s about power, she adds.
A bold, yet sensitive painter, Chaplin is rapidly turning critical heads in her painting methodology, as well as her verve and choice of fresh colours and subject matter that yearns towards modernist art history.
Ayana V. Jackson
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle
April 6—May 20
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is pleased to announce Dear Sarah, an exhibition dedicated to artist Sarah Forbes Bonetta. The exhibition is inspired by the story of Bonetta, an African woman of Yoruba origin presented as a gift to the English Queen Victoria by the Dahomey King Ghezo. This series is a marked departure from Jackson’s previous works, which deconstruct the way in which the non-Western body has been photographed.
Here, Jackson reconstructs the narrative of Sarah Forbes throwing off the trope of Bonetta as a property of monarchs, and considers what the life of a young woman of royal lineage, and privileged upbringing would have been in 19th century England. Similar to previous bodies of work, Jackson continues her investigation into the photographic archive of the late 19th century. In stark contrast to previous bodies of work, namely ‘Archival Impulse’ and ‘Poverty Pornography’, Jackson’s interest in Bonetta presented an opportunity for the artist to move away from the visceral intellectual impact of examining how the non-European body has been framed literally and figuratively through out history. In the present day where incessant violence is disproportionately heaped upon non-Western people, Jackson’s reading of Sarah Forbes Bonetta reconstructs the young woman’s short life in nine images that offer the viewer luminous portraits of a woman unfettered and acutely aware of the possibilities her life has offered her.
Fried Contemporary, South Africa
April 6—May 6
This year’s showcase of South Africa’s bright young things is curated in collaboration with the recently established Found Collective. For Progeny ’17, the curators of Found Collective have placed great emphasis on discovering and displaying the work of recent graduates from Pretoria’s many universities, on explorations into new media, and on unusual expressions of existing materials and techniques.
The prominence of video and photographic works in the show reflect this generation’s immersion in the digital realm, and an awareness of issues connected to this, while also subtly picking up on the concerns of the current generation of South Africans about cultural identity in relation to global problems. The paintings and sculptures show skilful manipulations of the media to communicate quiet emotions and everyday experiences to the viewer. Participating artists include; Allen Laing, Brendon Erasmus, Cara du Plessis, Cedric Kwata, Elbie Erasmus, Franli Meintjies, Goitseone Moerane, Marion Nowak, Nico Lloyd van Schalkwyk, Reatile Moalusi, and Tatenda Chidora.
On Saturday, April 8, 2017, Quintessence, Ikoyi will present Silent Voices, an exhibition of recent work by Chamberlain Ukenedo. Here, the artist explores non-verbal communication, a challenging but interesting area of approach as he captures some of our postures, facial expressions and gestures. In this information age, our newly acquired culture, no doubt places an important role in our non-verbal communication, as well as influences our activities and interpersonal interactions. Importantly, Ukenedo also speaks for the disenfranchised and marginalized in the society.
The exhibition will run for three weeks
Of Mud and Lotus
April 12—May 12
STEVENSON is pleased to present Viviane Sassen’s Of Mud and Lotus, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Johannesburg, and her fourth with the gallery.
As the title suggests with its reference to mud being fundamental for the growth of the lotus, the exhibition engages in a conversation on transformation, procreation and fecundity, all elements traditionally ascribed to the idea of the feminine. Experimenting with collages and unique hand-coloured pieces, Sassen creates images in which abstraction and performance intertwine. In this evocative and imaginary realm of intense colour and textures, the imagery is rich with associative references that allow for layered readings and responses. Very little is what it seems at first sight.
Curtis Talwst Santiago
Gallery Momo, Johannesburg
Apr 20—May 27
Gallery MOMO is proud to present Exceeding Return, the first solo exhibition in South Africa by multifaceted artist Curtis Talwst Santiago.
Santiago’s practice explores issues of transculturalism, memory and ancestry in the contemporary Diasporic experience. Santiago’s infinity series of miniature dioramas in reclaimed ring boxes consider the absence of certain narratives in the dominant culture and draw on the tradition of storytelling to question the production of historical understanding. The ring boxes are unusually mobile artworks; between exhibitions, they close and travel with the artist. Encased in structures that protect and transport precious objects through generations, the ring boxes become symbolic of oral historical practices. The lack of an immersive experience in viewing these works and their overt objecthood suggest the distance between dominant culture and the stories they hold.
In Exceeding Return, Santiago sets to explore his personal genealogy and ancestry. Exhibiting new works created in Johannesburg, Santiago upholds as much as he dismantles known methods of archiving and reliving history. As a Trinidadian-Canadian artist in Africa, his visual language expresses a distant yet urgent transcultural connection with his unknown ancestors, taking the form of erased historical figures resurrected in our present moment. He asks how one may pay homage to, or call upon ancestors and relics of the past when the violence of colonial capitalism continues to denigrate and diminish their importance.
Gallery 1957, Ghana
April 21—May 25
Presenting a new series of works spanning painting, sculpture and collage, Standing Ovation explores migration as a constant process of transformation. Working with his signature woodcarvings, Gerald Chukwuma reflects on the interwoven histories of Nigerian culture and language. The title of the exhibition is taken from the work Standing Ovation (2017), a tribute to the resilience of the artistic spirit against the personal challenges faced throughout his career. The title also refers to the necessity of optimism even in dark times, considering Africa’s political and economic struggles in the aftermath of sustained periods of post-colonialism, violence, and corruption. Shining a light on his personal memories of growing up in Nigeria, Chukwuma creates works that reflect the joys and struggles of his culture through richly illustrated depictions of stories, myths and legends. Laden with personal and symbolic meaning, they speak to our human desire to communicate with each other and share stories about who we are, where we have come from, and most importantly, where we are going.
Goodman Gallery, Cape Town
April 22—May 24
“As a ‘disabled’ woman, I am thrust outside the garden gate. Sitting quietly, I peer through the foliage, into that fluorescent place, that world of lithe potency, but anxious performativity, that I once inhabited.” — Jessica Webster
Jessica Webster’s second solo exhibition at Goodman Gallery straddles personal and critical reflections on the category ‘white woman’ as the term manifests in a South African context. The title of the exhibition refers to the non-indigenous garden flower often planted along boundary walls and garden gates in South Africa as a borrowed expression of beauty from the European garden. Phonically, it evokes the term ‘hysteria’, which Freud associated with deep psychological repression and neurosis in Western women.
For Webster, “stereotypes assigned to the white woman as both delicate victim and threatening provocateur have resulted in the containment of such figures to walled-in, protected settings throughout history, such as the safe South African suburban garden.” As a contemporary painter, Webster notes that this dynamic manifests in the European history of painting. In her new body of work, she references early European Modernist painting in which the white woman features as an ethereal complement to the sanctified garden scene.
James Cohan, Chelsea
April 28—June 17
James Cohan is pleased to present recent work by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. Running from April 28 through June 17, the exhibition features large-scale, wall-mounted artworks constructed from a grid-like arrangement of panels encrusted with electronic parts.
Elias Sime’s work is a meditation on connectivity and transformation. His unorthodox materials include reclaimed cell phone bodies, Soviet-era transistors, computer motherboards, brightly coloured electrical wires, sections of plastic keyboards with other e-waste that has been discarded and sent to trash heaps across the African continent. This technological flotsam eventually washes up in the open-air markets of Addis Ababa, where Sime repurposes it into artworks. The works on view are part of an ongoing series entitled ‘Tightrope’, which refers to the contemporary balancing act between technology and tradition, humanity and the environment.
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