25 October - 24 November 2007
Michael Stevenson is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Willem Boshoff. A conceptual artist of great stature, Boshoff's work since the late 1970s has explored the interplay of art and language in the forms of concrete poetry, dictionaries, sculptures and installations. His previous show at the gallery, Licked, took place in 2003.
This exhibition sees Boshoff substantially extending two seminal bodies of work, Blind Alphabet and KykAfrikaans; commenting on world politics in characteristically playful yet pointed manner; and reflecting on the vital role that trees and wood play in his work.
Boshoff writes: 'I am awestruck by trees and, to a large extent, dependent on them, not only for their great wooden material, but also for ideas.' The artist has spent the last few months working from the Nirox Art Residency, part of the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site near Krugersdorp. Here he found himself surrounded by spectacular trees, in an area rich with myth. He writes: "The ancient history of this enigmatic place has somehow forced its way up through the roots of the trees to become visible on the surface of their bark as "body", "flesh" and "skin".' The result is a photographic series titled Acheiropoietoi ('images not made by hand') which Boshoff dedicates to the hamadryads, or nymphs of the woods.
The sheer visual poetry of wood comes to the fore in the work Coprophemism, made from heavily scarred wooden cutting blocks, and Walking Stick Jig, in which a bundle of Zebrawood walking sticks are transformed into 'drumbeats' - a composition in which one can 'see' percussive sounds. The work Épat (meaning 'wow' in colloquial French) continues the musical riff with its construction from old cassette tapes.
Sound becomes a key element of Boshoff's latest presentation of the concrete poems that make up his KykAfrikaans series, first published in 1980. The artist writes: 'Many of the poems are optophonetic - in Greek optos is 'see' or 'visible' and phonein 'to utter vocally' or 'to speak'. On the one hand one might look at poems and imagine that one can hear sounds emanating from their graphic templates. On the other hand, in many poems the sounds can actually also be recited audibly.' Over the past year Boshoff has worked with a professional studio and voice artists to record nearly 30 of the KykAfrikaans poems. The recitals of these poems will be projected here, accompanied by the images that gave rise to the sounds.
Blind Alphabet is a key work in Boshoff's oeuvre. He began working on Blind Alphabet A, B, C in 1991 and completed the first 338 wooden sculptures in 1994. The sculptures together make up a dictionary of words relating to form/structure. Each is enclosed in a mesh box, with the definition of the word embossed in Braille on the lid. Only blind people are permitted to read the texts, open the lids and handle the sculptures. On exhibition will be 30 new sculptures for the letters D and E. Two other works also refer to Braille and the practice of reading with the fingers - Blind Dots, a wall piece that encourages people to run their fingers through the bristles of a number of brushes, and Blind Fish, wooden fish-like sculptures inscribed with Braille texts.
Other works, Vexillator and Nice Guys, use a British flag and Boshoff's tie collection respectively as the starting point for investigations into history, politics and culpability.
Boshoff has exhibited extensively locally and internationally, and has represented South Africa at biennales in Johannesburg (1995), São Paulo (1996), Havana (2000) and Venice (2001). A retrospective exhibition of his work, Word Forms and Language Shapes 1975-2007, is at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg until 1 December 2007.
The exhibition at Michael Stevenson will open on Thursday 25 October from 6 to 8pm. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
Willem Boshoff, accompanied by a blind 'guide', will give three walkabouts of his exhibition. On Friday October 26 at 11am, the cost is R30 and proceeds go to the Friends of the National Gallery. Free public walkabouts take place on Friday October 26 at 2pm and on Saturday October 27 at 11am.
A blind guide is present in the gallery every Tuesday and Friday from 11am to 1pm throughout the run of the show.
For more information contact +27 (0)21 421 2575 or fax +27 (0)21 421 2578 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.