16 August - 15 September 2007
Michael Stevenson is pleased to present new work by Meschac Gaba in his first solo exhibition in South Africa. Gaba was born in 1961 in Cotonou, Benin. He studied at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1996-7, and currently lives in Rotterdam.
Gaba is best known for his Museum of Contemporary African Art, a project in which he installed 12 'rooms' of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of six years starting in 1996, culminating with his presentation of a 'Humanist Space' at Documenta11 in 2002. Gaba's project mirrored and arguably anticipated curatorial debates about contemporary art from Africa, and the increasingly nomadic nature of the international art world in the 21st century.
This exhibition consists of new works from Gaba's Tresses series in which he reinterprets iconic buildings in the form of braided artificial hair sculptures. On a research trip to South Africa in 2006, Gaba selected 10 buildings including the Sentech Tower in Johannesburg, the Castle and Good Hope Centre in Cape Town, and the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. Working from photographs, Gaba's studio in Cotonou then crafted the 'wig buildings' according to his specifications. Gaba uses the French term métissage (literally 'mixed-race') as a metaphor for global culture, of which both hair-braiding and architecture are instances.
The Tresses series premiered in 2005 at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where Gaba presented replicas of buildings from Cotonou and New York City. Since then, he has made and exhibited hair sculptures based on landmarks in London and Paris. A video projection included on this exhibition shows a 2006 performance in which a number of these works were worn and paraded through the streets of Paris. See www.gabatresses.org.
Gaba is included on the international touring exhibition Africa Remix, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery until 30 September 2007. He will hold a solo exhibition at JAG from 6 November 2007 to 26 January 2008, and a catalogue of the South African Tresses - published jointly by JAG and Michael Stevenson - will be available shortly.
In 2006 Gaba took part in the São Paolo, Gwangju, Sydney and Havana biennales. Other recent solo shows include Glue Me Peace at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (2006) and Tate Modern, London (2005). He inaugurated his major work, the Museum of Contemporary African Art,, at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, in 1996. He subsequently created the Museum Restaurant at W139, Amsterdam, in 1999; the Games Room in Besançon, France, in 1999 and in Brussels and Gent in 2000; the Library of the Museum (Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2001, and published in book form, also 2001), and the Salon (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002). Apart from exhibiting extensively, Gaba has also undertaken residencies in Recife, Brazil, in preparation for the São Paolo Bienal (2006); at Couvent des Récollets, Paris, France (2005), and at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003/4).
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© 2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.