Must See Exhibitions This June
The month of June comes with a selection of highly anticipated exhibitions at Africa’s leading art galleries that shouldn’t be missed.
Everard Read Gallery
June 1 to June 24
Everard Read Gallery is pleased to present Pleated by South African artist Gary Stephens. Monumental in scale, the artist’s portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style. By capturing an ornate braid pattern or the particular angle of a hat viewed from behind, the artist focuses on the iconic strengths of his models instead of their personal features.
Stephens portrays women in head scarves or men wearing caps to focus attention on the power of these everyday symbols of African life. He documents the sense of style and attention people put into how they present themselves in a contemporary African setting.
He transforms the everyday people of his African life into sublimely beautiful beings that radiate an almost mythological sense of Italian classical light. He strives to reflect the sense of joy he experiences living among a new culture and finding beauty in the people he meets.
In the Middle of it
Everard Read Gallery
June 2 to July 1
South African artist Angus Taylor will unveil In the Middle of it at the Everard Read Gallery. Known for his powerful, often monumental, sculptural works, Taylor works with an extraordinary range of materials from his immediate environment – Belfast granite, red jasper and the orange soil found near Johannesburg. He relishes working with challenging materials, on a scale that many sculptors find intimidating.
In the Middle of it is proof of an artist being in the moment, beyond the initial anxiety of the halfway mark, and thoroughly immersed in his work: “I am fortunate to have the luxury of now seeking out my own difficulties, and it is a good place to be. I hope the work communicates this energy.”
June 3 to August 30
SMO Contemporary is pleased to present Modern Interpretations, an exhibition of 34 paintings by Nigerian artist Titi Omoighe. To be held at Temple Muse in Lagos, Omoighe’s works can be split broadly in three main themes. Recent Works that show her ability to take risks, as well as exploration of new techniques and subjects. The ‘Hunter’ series, which is inspired by D.O. Fagunwa’s book Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale, translated into English by Wole Soyinka as Forest of a Thousand Daemons. The final theme, Tradition and Culture investigates the way of life of the African people, while focusing on the indigenous through different groups, values and cultures.
Titi Omoighe’s interest has always been on translating Nigeria’s rich literature into visual poetry, with traditional African forms that have contemporary nuance and reflection. Her impressionistic works show a deep maturity, and balance, and draws us into a world where elongated human forms travel across vast landscapes and rich forests, enacting famous Yoruba mythological stories of hunters in search of adventure. Omoighe’s canvases reflect both the physical action of characters in search of higher meaning while engulfed in other-worldly adventure, as well as deftly draws us into the emotional and spiritual landscapes of memory, longing and revelation.
June 8 to July 15
From June 8 to July 15, Stevenson Gallery will present Restless Republic by South African artist Penny Siopis. The artist’s interest in materiality and contingency, form and formlessness in painting is longstanding. Over the last decade, she has intensified this interest through experiments with glue and ink, creating a fluid process in which the medium is an active agent in the making of the work.
The exhibition brings found objects into play with the paintings, the combination producing associative networks between them and across the gallery, simultaneously referencing art, society and politics. The title Restless Republic alludes to both a nation state and a state of being, of flux and volatility, emergence and explosiveness. Here Siopis dissolves distinctions between process and image, between the act of making and re-making, and the critical distance adopted in the act of viewing. Process speaks again of the ‘life’ of the medium; chance is central, control is a myth, and authorship belongs to viewer, medium and maker.
Emperor of the Sands
Jack Bell Gallery
June 9 to June 22
From June 9 to June 22, Jack Bell Gallery will present Emperor of the Sands by Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda. The artist is interested in the collective memory of his country, Mozambique, which has only recently emerged from a long and terrible civil war. He works with arms recovered in 1992 at the end of the sixteen-year conflict that divided the region.
In his sculpture, he gives anthropomorphic forms to AK47s, rocket launchers, pistols and other objects of destruction. While the masks could be said to draw on a local history of traditional African art, Mabunda’s work takes on a striking modernist edge akin to imagery by Braque and Picasso.
Hank Willis Thomas
Ads Imitate Life
June 10 to July 1
Hank Willis Thomas will unveil Ads Imitate Life at the Goodman Gallery. Through subtle processes of image reconstruction, Willis Thomas complicates seemingly simple meanings behind image-based adverts, revealing their capacity to have much greater power than selling products but also to play a disturbing role in constructing and reinforcing social prejudice – with an emphasis on the portrayal of black men and white women in America.
Ads Imitate Life features work from three celebrated series by Thomas, titled: Branded, Unbranded: Reflections in Black Corporate America and Unbranded White Woman, allowing for an in-depth investigation into the visual language strategies of advertising and the cultural stereotypes in which they are rooted.
Bubbles of Emotions
June 17 to July 1
Omenka Gallery will present Bubbles of Emotions an exhibition of recent works by leading contemporary sculptor Adeola Balogun. The artist listens in on social banters and communal rumbles in local and national politics and takes note of evanescent restiveness on the part of the Nigerian people. Everywhere, the people are heated up. The anger is palpable. Outbursts of emotion are evident. Elsewhere in the world, the rich get richer by dint of their upper hand advantage in commerce (but at least, real commerce is indulged in). Not in Nigeria however. The poor are getting poorer because of the mindless greed of the politicians and their partners in private business who openly loot the public treasury and leave the rest of the people wallowing in abject poverty and misery.
According to the artist, “Bubbles of Emotion is a body of work that attempts to reflect on heart-wrenching narratives both at my immediate environmental and the global space; the atmosphere has never been this charged!”
All that Glitters
Gallery 1957, Ghana
June 29 to August 15
Ghanaian artist Yaw Owusu will unveil All that Glitters at the Gallery 1957. Through his socially engaged and visually rich practice, the artist questions the failures of Ghana’s ongoing infrastructural development.
Owusu creates sculptural installations that repurpose found objects, shifting the value of otherwise worthless materials into things of beauty. Built from countless pieces of loose change known as “pesewa” coins, his work activates urgent questions around economic and political independence in contemporary Ghana. First introduced as an attempt to cure the country’s economic inflation in 2007, these small copper coins have almost no value in today’s financial climate, enabling the artist to use them as a primary material. Typical of Owusu’s approach to working with local agencies to develop his work, the artist has acquired the coins by negotiating with The Central Bank of Ghana – the only bank to still distribute the pesewa – a bureaucratic process that is important to the artist’s practice.
In this new body of work, Owusu transforms devalued coins into detailed map-like surfaces. These works oscillate between notions of past and present, simultaneously referencing old colonial maps –a nod towards the economic power structures drawn by history – whilst also suggesting alternative typographies for potential resourceful futures.
The Slave Ship
June 30 to August 12
Tiwani Contemporary will present The Slave Ship by African artist Theo Eshetu. The artist is known for his pioneering work in film and video, combining his formal interest in the moving image with anthropological ideas to examine the notion of culture itself.
With The Slave Ship, Theo Eshetu continues his exploration of the fundamental components of video – time, movement and light – and creates a pensive oceanic epic evoking the history of slavery. The title of the installation references one of J.M.W. Turner’s most celebrated works, the 1840 painting Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon Coming On (also known as The Slave Ship). The painting depicts the slave ship Zong, pummelled by violent waves, as her captain throws enslaved men and women overboard to claim insurance.
The viewer is invited to look into a window that gives onto a pitch-black space. There, a perfect, lucent orb shimmers with moving images of abyssal waters and enigmatic landscapes. The result of a play with perception and mirrors, the view from the window evokes telescopic visions, the specular reflections of still waters and the roundness of the earth. As the viewer is immersed in blurred marine currents and embarks on a voyage into the depths of oceanic memories, reality and fiction converge while myths past and present emerge.
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