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'Jumping the Ditch:' A review of Henri Matisse's 'Rhythm and Meaning' at the Standard Bank Gallery

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French modern master Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) exhibition ‘Rhythm and Meaning’ opened its doors to the public on the 13th July 2016 at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg. Co-curated by Patrice Deparpe and Professor Federico Freschi, and held in collaboration with the Embassy of France in South Africa, the French Institute and the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau Cambrésis (France), the exhibition comprises of drawings, paintings, collages and prints, and is the first wide-ranging exhibition of Matisse’s work to be held in South Africa.

'A Grand Way To Fall:' Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi's 'Window Part II' at Barnard Gallery, Cape Town By Ashraf Jamal

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A window is an aperture, a screen; connecting, dividing. The history of illusion in painting is connected with the idea of the framed window. Here the Barnard Gallery has noted the importance of Leon Battista Albertus’ 1435 study, De Pictura, and the shaping influence of the Quattrocento System central to Renaissance painting in which the Eye – yours and mine – is kept at the centre of the picture plane and allowed to become the allpowerful surveyor of the world. That Eye is also the Ego, which in the 18th century spirited the birth of individualism.

‘Being and Becoming: Complexities of the African Identity’ at UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria

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Is it not slightly self-defeating for African curators to foreground the identity of the artists as the central curatorial thrust for an exhibition of art from the continent? This mirrors the manner in which African art is promoted on global stages, with the provenance of the art or the geographical origins of the artists almost always framing their work. Conceived by !Kauru in association with the Black Collectors Forum, 'Being and Becoming: Complexities of the African Identity' took place at the UNISA Art Gallery in Pretoria, South Africa, and mimics this trend, while trying to usurp and take 'ownership' of how African identity is advanced. It seems that for as long as African art is advanced on European or American platforms (and by auction houses) as a discrete category, or worse, a genre of contemporary art, perhaps African artists will remain locked into a dialogue around their identity. Or have we turned a corner, allowing for this theme to be explored in new ways?

'Met Ander Oë,' Larita Engelbrecht at EBONY Curated: 01 September - 29 October 2016

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Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1986, Larita Engelbrecht has been involved in academia for most of her life. In 2009 she received a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch, followed by an MA in Visual Art three years later. In addition to her work as a visual artist, Engelbrecht is now a senior lecturer at Cape Town Creative Academy. This proximity to knowledge, or more accurately, the systems and processes that have come to define and transpose knowledge, forms the basis for her latest body of work ‘Met Ander Oë,’ which will be exhibited at EBONY Curated in Cape Town from the 1st September until the 29th October.

Nolan Oswald Dennis announced as FNB Art Prize winner

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Amongst the exhibiting artists at this year's FNB JoburgArtFair, set to take place between the 9th - 11th September 2016, is this year's FNB Art Prize winner, Nolan Oswald Dennis. Comprised of Zimbabwean curator and director of the Zimbabwean National Gallery in Harare, Raphael Chikukwa, FNB JoburgArtFair curator Lucy MacGarry, and Angolan architect and curator Paula Nascimento, this year's jury were given the opporunity to select one nominated artist from each of the participating galleries' stands. Represented by the Goodman Gallery, Dennis joins a prestigious list of winners since the launch of the FNB Art Prize in 2011, and will be showcasing his work in a dedicated space at the FNB JoburgArtFair.

Picturing Power: Allison K. Young In Conversation with Bradley McCallum

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Bradley McCallum is a Brooklyn-based artist whose practice has long been politically and socially-engaged. The international tour of his ‘Weights and Measures’ series, which addresses questions of social justice through the lens of the International Criminal Court, will launch at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg in February 2017. A selection of his ‘reversal’ paintings from this series – large-scale portraits of criminal defendants rendered in a grisaille, almost solarised palette – was also on view at ‘Still (the) Barbarians,’ at the 2016 EVA Biennial in Limerick, Ireland, curated by Koyo Kouoh. Depicting gures as diverse as Congolese militia leader German Katanga and South African jurist Navi Pillay, the series navigates the humanity of the justice system from the perspective of defendants, justice advocates and victims. Allison K. Young spoke with McCallum about the ‘Weights and Measures’ series and its forthcoming debut in South Africa.

Artists' Books and Africa: By Petra Mason

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Far from the razzmatazz of New York City’s art scene – and only a two and a half hour train ride away – in the nation’s capital of Washington DC, is the National Museum of African Art. It’s a post-modern jewel of a building tucked away between the Arthur. M Sackler Gallery for Asian Art and the Air and Space Museum. Washington DC is largely home to admin staff and the secret service, so it can be a bit vanilla, à la Pretoria (in South Africa). But it is one of the world’s greatest cities and one that houses many of the nation’s top museums. And because the Federal Government owns them, entrance is free. ‘Artists’ Books and Africa,’ curated by Janet Stanley, is showcased at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art until September 11, 2016.

From Hero to Zero: An Artist’s Take on South African Politicians

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Cape Town artist, Campbell Lak, takes a playful take on past and current major political events by transforming beloved comic book characters. From ‘JjACOB ZUMA THE ORIGINAL ZUMATELLO’ (above) and ‘NELSON MANDELA IS SUPER-MAN’, Lak brings a fresh approach to the country’s ever-so-gloom democratic soap story.  

'Getting Intimate': Houghton Kinsman In Conversation with Betti-Sue Hertz

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I first met Betti-Sue Hertz in 2015 at the San Francisco Art Institute. As we awaited a talk by cultural practitioner William Cordova – someone I had worked closely with as an educator at MoCA Miami – I learned of the long collaborative history between the two practitioners. It was heartwarming to hear them catch up, talk about the first exhibition they’d done together and the excitement around Cordova’s recent visit to the Headlands Center for the Arts residency programme in the Bay Area, where Hertz was Interim Director of Programmes. It was this moment that reaffirmed for me the beauty inherent in art, for bringing different people together to share conversations, ideas, and form lifelong friendships.
 

'Mastry:' Kerry James Marshall at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

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‘Mastry,’ Kerry James Marshall’s survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, feels like a full-circle moment for the city, putting into sharp focus the stakes of the representation of bodies of colour.

Chicago is experiencing a steady rise in gun violence that may be related to the institutional chaos in the wake of the October 2015 release of a video showing the police shooting Laquan Macdonald, an unarmed black teen. The video of Macdonald’s murder was looped countless times on news stations and web platforms, an endless falling of a young, black male’s body: the image drew protestors out onto the streets.

The Black Art Incubator Is Staging a Much-Needed Art-World Intervention

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“This is not about selling people crap they don’t need—it’s about communicating about artwork,” said artist and activist Dread Scott towards the end of a talk last Thursday on how artists should market themselves. Some 15 people had gathered at The Black Art Incubator in New York to hear the self-described revolutionary communist discuss the nitty-gritty of getting your work seen, understood, and, to some extent, sold. In the leadup to the talk, Scott had been in the headlines for his "A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday" flag, which attracted both support and death threats. I’d interviewed him about the piece the day before, and as I listened to him give advice to the group, I realized I had unknowingly been on the receiving end of the tips and techniques he was now championing to other artists—availability, clarity of communication, and a navigable artist website among them.  

Bright Young Things: Sarah Schumann & Aidan Tobias

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I recently found myself at The Work Hub in Woodstock’s industrial area (Cape Town) with my fourteen-year-old daughter and her two sixteen-year-old friends. It was their idea that we see the second incarnation of ‘Strangers on Film,’ an ongoing project run by organisers and curators Aidan Tobias and Sarah Schumann.
 

How London Developed a Bullish Market for Contemporary African Art

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 With his deftly rendered paintings fusing digital textures with portraits of disappearing ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Congolese artist Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga emphasizes globalization’s modernizing effects on his home. His eponymous solo show, his first in the United Kingdom, which opened at London’s October Gallery in late June, highlights capitalism’s role in accelerating the disappearance of traditional cultures, including that of the DRC’s threatened northeastern Mangbetu people. But Kamuanga Ilunga’s debut here tells another story.

Call For Entries: PPC Imaginarium Awards 2016/17

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Following the resounding success of the PPC Imaginarium Awards 2015/16 - where a total of forty-seven regional finalists were selected to exhibit (compared to the previous year’s tally of twenty-one finalists), the official Call to Entry for the third edition of the awards is now live. Un-established artists and designers stand a chance to change their careers through financial support, recognition, mentorship and guidance by entering the PPC Imaginarium Awards 2016/17.

Curators Karen E. Milbourne and Polly Nooter Roberts on 'Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa'

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‘Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Arts of Africa’ opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on the 20th of December 2015. In an opportunity made possible only by the new realities of time-based media, the exhibition will appear simultaneously at two additional venues. It opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art on the 18th of May 2016, and at the Wellin Museum of Art in Clinton, NYC on the 10th September 2016. Each venue differs with the inclusion of an additional artist’s work. LACMA features six works of art by Berni Searle (South Africa), Moataz Nasr (Egypt), Theo Eshetu (Ethiopia), Sammy Baloji (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Yinka Shonibare MBE (Nigeria). To these, the Smithsonian will add South Africa’s Sue Williamson and the Wellin will add Jim Chuchu from Kenya.

'Ways of Seeing': Claude Chandler on Identity and Consumption

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Claude Chandler’s latest show, ‘Ways of Seeing’ (set to open in August 2016) bears a strong resemblance to the work he began with his solo exhibition ‘Binary Transcendence’ that took place at Worldart gallery in Cape Town in August 2015. Dabbling in the intangible realm of binary code and attempting to manifest through paint the digital lives we weave for ourselves daily, Chandler’s work explores the nature of creating identities, as well as the visual consumption of – the ‘ways of seeing’ – these identities that are simultaneously true and untrue.

Jelili Atiku: A win for freedom of expression

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On the 18th of January, Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku gave a performance dealing with domestic terrorism and abuses by the rich and powerful. Four days later he was arrested by armed officers; denied information and a phone-call and held until the following morning when he’d be charged in court. Five months later, the artist, as well as poet Adeola Goloba and five others regained their freedom as the Ejigbo Magistrate Court struck out all criminal charges instituted against them by the Nigerian Police.

The new auction house on the block: Aspire Art Auctions

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Last month, Mary-Jane Darroll (former Curator of the Standard Bank Gallery and Corporate Collection) and Ruarc Peffers (recent Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer at Strauss & Co.) introduced their new auctioneering firm, Aspire Art Auctions, to the South African market. They are now pleased to introduce their partners; Emma Bedford and Jacqui Carney. This powerhouse of art specialists collectively offers in excess of eighty years’ experience in the art industry, and through Aspire Art Auctions intend to focus on the promotion of fine arts, both locally and abroad.

'Noka Ya Bokamoso': Lerato Shadi at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, by Khehla Chepape Makgato

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Dressed in black with glasses set before her eyes, Lerato Shadi is sitting on a four legged chair – body tranquil, legs crossed – her fingers moving and weaving from what looks like a red woolen ball – transforming it into what appears to be a red carpet. Lerato means ‘Love’ and no doubt she is using the colour red as a metaphor that drives her exhibition theme. ‘Noka Ya Bokamoso’ is a Tswana saying for ‘River Of The Future.’ This exhibition, curated by Joan Legalamitlwa, is effervescence of the live performance – and includes other mediums such as video installations and drawings.

'Filming But Drowning': Gordon Glyn-Jones In Conversation with Gideon Mendel

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In the coffee-table-canon of revered South African photographers, a few names regularly float to the surface: Goldblatt, Mthethwa, Oberholzer and so on. With the international recognition for his series ‘Drowning World,’ Gideon Mendel finally edges into their ranks. This year he’s been Shortlisted for the Prix Pictet, won the Jackson Pollock Award and Axis Gallery will host a solo show of his work at 1:54 London. Gordon Glyn-Jones discusses Mendel’s ‘Drowning World’ and his new series ‘Watermarks’ which breathes new life into flood damaged photographs.

'Captured': Seán Slemon at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle, by T.s. Flock

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At a glance, Seán Slemon’s new works at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery might seem a bit disconnected from each other: a trio of aquatints, a slanted ray of polished steel panels and two tree remnants covered in gold foil. One of the trees is suspended near the gallery entrance, more or less parallel to the floor, and makes such a grand impression that the rest might seem like afterthoughts. There is, however, a unifying logic to it, one that is enriched by the ambiguity of the content and optical tricks that Slemon plays in each individual work.

'On Migration and Materiality in Ireland's 'Post-Colonial' Biennial' by Allison K. Young

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At the turn of the twentieth century, the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy was living in Alexandria, Egypt – then under British rule – when he penned a poem titled Waiting for the Barbarians (written in 1898, published in 1904). The poem’s subject is seemingly antiquarian – it invokes the edgling democracies of ancient Greece and Rome – but its political import was as relevant to Cavafy’s time as it is today. It tells of a despondent government that refuses to make progress, paralysed by anticipation of a fabled Barbarian invasion, which never happens. Cavafy muses on the causes and consequences of political inaction as well as the tendency for communities to self-define only in relation to a perceived ‘Other.’ “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?” the narrator pleads, “Those people were a kind of solution.” 

'Us and Them: The Killer of the World' by Ashraf Jamal

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Over a year has passed since the Rhodes Must Fall (#RhodesMustFall) movement was incepted into the national psyche. Such has been the power of this student-led movement that it has come to define the very nature of contemporary political, socio-economic and cultural struggle.

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