Steven Cohen


Life is Shot, Art is Long

21 January - 6 March 2010

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present Steven Cohen's first solo exhibition in South Africa in more than 10 years.

In this decade Cohen, who has lived in France since 2003, has become internationally recognised for his performance art, yet his work has been seen infrequently at home and in the gallery context. This exhibition will refocus attention on Cohen as a maker of extraordinary images and objects, in addition to presenting his latest performance work on video.

The exhibition - which takes its title from an 'inspirational' found object, a small tapestry bought at the roadside which charmingly misquotes Hippocrates' aphorism - includes a selection of the hand-coloured screenprints for which Cohen first became known in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Pieces such as Icons of the Place I Live and Rough Play with Boys and Girls who Kick Arse are powerfully resonant of that era, iconoclastic mash-ups of apartheid politicians, armoured vehicles, anatomical diagrams, apes, beggars, body parts, screen icons and self-portraits of the artist as Princess Menorah. These are shown alongside a powerful new installation of collaged books incorporating authentic documents and objects from the Nazi era, photos of Cohen's family - Eastern European Jews who were displaced by the Holocaust - and other found imagery.

On show is video footage of some of Cohen's early performances and public interventions, including the seminal Chandelier, in which Cohen, dressed in vertiginous heels and an illuminated chandelier tutu, interacted with residents of a squatter camp in Newtown, Johannesburg, as it was in the process of being destroyed in 2001. Another intervention took place during the 1999 general election, when Cohen queued to vote wearing fetish shoes onto which he had grafted metre-long gemsbok horns. Footage of this performance is shown here for the first time, and the bizarrely beautiful gemsbok horn shoes are among a number of costume elements included on the exhibition.

Cohen's latest performance piece, Golgotha, began with the artist's discovery of two human skulls for sale in a shop in Soho, New York City. These were fashioned by Cohen into a pair of exquisitely macabre 'skulletoes', and worn in a series of actions which took him to Wall Street, Times Square and Ground Zero. The completed work was seen at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, as part of the prestigious Festival d'Automne in November 2009.

In 2009 Cohen undertook residencies at the Mikhail Baryshnikov Art Center and the Center for Performance Research in New York. He has performed extensively at festivals and other platforms internationally - in the past year he has appeared at Les Antipodes festival in Brest, the Holland festival in Amsterdam, Queer up North in Manchester, the Body/Mind Contemporary Dance Festival in Warsaw, and the festival Souterrain Porte 5 in Nancy and Les Subsistances in Lyon, France. Recent group exhibitions include Life Less Ordinary: Performance and display in South African art at the Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK (2009) and Under Pain of Death at the Austrian Cultural Forum, New York (2008).

Cohen exhibits concurrently with Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and, as part of the FOREX series, Thomas Hirschhorn.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 21 January, 6-8pm. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.

Cohen will give a walkabout of his exhibition in aid of the Friends of the South African National Gallery on Friday 22 January at 11am; cost is R20 members and non-members.

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Torah (detail)

Reserved

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