Wim Botha: Still Life with Discontent
From April 13 to August 4, 2019, 21c Museum Durham and the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh will present South African artist Wim Botha’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, Wim Botha: Still Life with Discontent. Featuring works that span Botha’s career, the cross-institutional exhibition will provide visitors with varied experiences of the artist’s work and a new site-specific installation at each venue. Co-curated by 21c Chief Curator and Museum Director Alice Gray Stites and NCMA Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Jennifer Dasal, Wim Botha: Still Life with Discontent examines Botha’s multimedia practice and his use of diverse materials to question and subvert aesthetic conventions of power and value.
As part of the opening celebration (April 10 to 13, 2019), 21c and the NCMA will host a series of events open to the public, including an artist-led tour of the exhibition at 21c Durham and a conversation between the artist and curators at the NCMA, with more events to be announced. This marks the second collaboration between the two institutions, following the travelling exhibition Alter Ego: Anthony Goicolea, A Decade of Work in 2011–12. A full-colour exhibition catalogue, with essays by Elizabeth Perrill, South African contemporary art specialist and professor at UNC–Greensboro, and 21c’s Alice Gray Stites, and an interview with the artist conducted by the NCMA’s Jennifer Dasal accompanies the exhibition.
Botha’s work blurs, deconstructs, or fractures historically significant examples of Greek, Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art to subvert sculptural traditions. Botha lets his process guide the form his works take and often combines unusual and disparate materials including polystyrene, fluorescent lights, marble, wood, bronze, and books, to question the hierarchy of art history and the preciousness of typical materials. Botha’s sculpted portraits portray complex human forms conjured from his memories; the resulting faces are in some ways mangled, abject, or broken, yet simultaneously beautiful. “Beauty is a difficult concept,” Botha observes, “because it sits so close to ugliness; pleasure and pain are very closely related.”
The title of the exhibition, Still Life with Discontent, pays homage to the artist’s interests, practice, and perspective. “Repetitively interrogating the symbols and sources of religious, cultural, and political power, his works reflect the anxiety of influence while resisting fixed interpretation,” says 21c’s Alice Gray Stites. “To be discontent is to critique content and to empty out that content from its traditional conventions so that art can tell a multiplicity of stories.”
Reflecting a shared commitment to exhibiting compelling, dynamic works by living artists, the NCMA and 21c Durham are thrilled to present the first solo museum presentation of the artist’s work in the United States. Wim Botha: Still Life with Discontent results from a mutual belief in the value of collaboration and in the transformative power of art that questions itself, its maker, and audience.
“We are elated to collaborate with the NCMA again, this time to present the work of Wim Botha,” says Alice Gray Stites, 21c’s chief curator and museum director. “This exhibition will provide a unique experience for audiences who plan to attend the shows at both the NCMA and 21c. While each can be viewed and enjoyed separately, there’s a tremendous synergy between the exhibitions in both museums, and we encourage viewers to take advantage of the opportunity to view Botha in both settings. We look forward to sharing the exquisite work of Wim Botha.”
“We are so pleased to be able to bring attention to an acclaimed artist little-known in the United States,” says Jennifer Dasal, the NCMA’s curator of modern and contemporary art. “Wim Botha’s work is fascinating, challenging, and pertinent to our times, and to be able to bring his work to a wider and more diverse audience, while partnering with 21c Museum Hotels, is a privilege.”
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