Michael Stevenson is pleased to present Anton Kannemeyer's second solo exhibition at the gallery, following Fear of a Black Planet in 2008. The exhibition title is a quotation from The Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky: 'The peasants are coming, carrying axes, A dreadful thing is about to occur.'
Kannemeyer is unflinchingly committed to using the polemics of race to explore the vigorous debates about racism that still enliven and shadow daily life in South Africa. As the shimmer of the rainbow nation has faded, issues around race continue to underlie the most contested issues in the country. Each day the newspapers abound with stories provoked by inequalities linked to race, from instant wealth as a result of Black Economic Empowerment to impoverished whites affected by affirmative employment policies. Yet the subject of race is rarely addressed directly, remaining the most sensitive issue in the country - and the continent - due to the long history of exploitation of Africans by Europeans.
Kannemeyer confronts us with the fears that underlie these debates about race, his works possessing a frankness and humour that often leave us awkward and uncertain of our own position.
In his previous show, Kannemeyer shifted his practice by scaling up his provocative imagery and presenting cartoons at a size that, in his words, 'you can't ignore anymore'. He continues this strategy in the large acrylic on canvas paintings that form the core of this exhibition.
Many of the new paintings use as their starting point gag cartoons collected from The New Yorker magazine and other sources. Kannemeyer plays his own version of 'caption contest' by placing his favourite one-liners within a new socio-political context in order to highlight our attitudes and discomforts around race. His figuration strongly references Hergé's Tintin, invoking the 'boy adventurer' as the archetypal white settler in Africa. The artist does not flinch from implicating himself in these scenarios, often casting himself in the Tintin role.
As usual, nothing escapes Kannemeyer's 'X-ray political vision' (as the New York Times called it), and a series of new large-scale drawings satirises white fears surrounding the upcoming Soccer World Cup.
Born in 1967 and based in Cape Town, Kannemeyer, aka Joe Dog, has been publishing and exhibiting his work since 1992, the year he and Conrad Botes founded Bitterkomix as students at the University of Stellenbosch. Kannemeyer held his first New York exhibition, The Haunt of Fears, at the Jack Shainman Gallery in 2008. His work for Bitterkomix is currently included on The Graphic Unconscious, the main exhibition of Philagrafika 2010, an international festival celebrating print in contemporary art in Philadelphia, USA. Other recent exhibitions include the Cyclone BD international comics festival in Reunion and the Angoulême International Comics Festival in France (both 2009); From Trentino South Tyrol to the Rest of the World and Back at Kunst Merano Arte in Merano, Italy (2007); and Africa Comics at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2006).
Kannemeyer will exhibit concurrently with Zanele Muholi and, as part of the FOREX series, Glenn Ligon. The exhibitions open on Thursday 22 April, 6-8pm. The three artists will take part in a public discussion around race, politics and related issues in their works at the gallery on Friday 23 April at 1pm; all are welcome.
The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.