Michael Stevenson's 15th annual summer exhibition will comprise five solo shows, by Anton Kannemeyer, Viviane Sassen, Claudette Schreuders, Serge Alain Nitegeka and Hylton Nel.
Anton Kannemeyer, following his successful exhibition with the gallery in May this year and the publication of his much-debated Pappa in Afrika book, will show new works and a few classics from his Alphabet of Democracy series. The artist has been working on this series for the past five years, chronicling the absurdities of life in the democratic South Africa; his imagery subverts the narrative, history and myth of the 'rainbow nation' with acute humour and critique. This exhibition will be accompanied by a book, published by Jacana, bringing together the entire series.
Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen (Amsterdam, 1972) will exhibit at the gallery for the first time. Sassen grew up in East Africa and has been taking photographs on the continent since her first return visit in 2002. Her imagery is infused with memories of her youth, from the beauty of the landscape and the children with whom she used to play to the poverty of the shanty towns and her doctor-father's terminally ill patients. She will show new work alongside some images from her Flamboya and Ultra Violet series, for which she won the Dutch art prize, the Prix de Rome, in 2007. According to the judges, 'Sassen knows how to go beyond the confines of her subject. The photographs do not just portray death, loss and urban life in Africa. They show genuine humanity, cultural clichés, Sassen's personal life story and aesthetics.'
Sassen's working method is intuitive. The first impulse for an image manifests in her sketchbooks, which include quotes, Polaroids and drawings. When travelling, Sassen lets herself be taken by the appearance or behaviour of people she encounters; conversations and drawings follow, with the camera coming into play at the very last. The final images - some staged, some spontaneous - are realised in collaboration with 'the model'. Many of Sassen's photographs are portraits, yet the viewer is seldom easily able to distinguish the facial features of the subjects. Their personal identity is symbolically - and sometimes literally - left in the shadows. Sassen's work was included on the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennale, curated by Martin Parr.
Claudette Schreuders will show four new sculptures, prior to a solo exhibition in April 2011 at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. This is the first time since 2004 that she has exhibited a significant group of sculptures in South Africa. The new series is entitled Close, close, taken from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop which describes a sleeping couple and reflects on the 'closeness' being both comforting and stifling:
Close, close all nightSchreuders' previous series of sculptures, The Fall, dealt with the trajectory of a couple's relationship, and Close, close picks up the story after the arrival of children. Whereas her work till now has consisted mostly of single figures, in this group the individual figure basically disappears. Predominantly the sculptures consist of two or more figures carved from a single block of wood. In the work which lends its name to the series, Close, close, a man and woman lie curled into each other like spoons. In Abba, a black nanny carries a white baby on her back, and in Two Hands, a mother holds twins, one tucked under each arm. Schreuders also reflects on DH Lawrence's observation that the individual is threatened by the very thing he or she craves. She writes: 'The need and craving to have children and new motherhood seemed to me to hold many of the same contradictions.' Schreuders will also show new drawings inspired by historical and contemporary sculptures that grapple with the challenges of incorporating more than one figure into a single sculpture, as well as some older prints and drawings based on her sketchbooks for previous works.
the lovers keep
They turn together,
in their sleep ...
The winner of the 2010 Tollman Award for Visual Art, Serge Alain Nitegeka, will show meditations on form based on his experience of Johannesburg. Nitegeka writes:
What occupies my mind is the question of how to reduce or even organise the 'surplus' and clutter of urban shapes to simple lines and forms that allow focus and appreciation. These works arose out of a curiosity about the everyday shapes, forms and structures of a city, and human access and relations to them. The primary lines that define shapes or forms like flyovers, doors, staircases, skyscrapers, gates, traffic lights, chairs, endless road networks, dustbins, red fire-hydrant pipes contoured to buildings are of most interest to me. In a contemplative process of looking and re-looking, I create forms that appear as abstracted versions of original shapes. During this process, the familiarity of form is lost; their individuality disappears and dissolves into simple abstraction.
In anticipation of Hylton Nel's 70th birthday in 2011, the gallery will exhibit recent works by the artist for the first time in five years. Nel continues to develop his distinctive style of work, rich in references to the decorative arts, literary and art-historical sources, and South African life. His plates, bowls, vases, plaques and figurative pieces are idiosyncratically decorated with witty and sometimes poignant line drawings and script. His imagery ranges from penises to madonnas, cats to angels, and his quotes are drawn from poetry and the daily press as well as his observations of the world around him. He lives on the outskirts of Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo, and was festival artist at the nearby Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn in 2009. The occasion will also be celebrated by a new book on Nel's work by Michael Stevenson, published by Jacana.
The exhibition also features a single, topical photograph by Zanele Muholi. In October 2010 the Black Empowerment businessman Kenny Kunene spent R700 000 on his 40th birthday party at the ZAR Lounge nightclub in Johannesburg, which he owns. According to reports, his party featured models, who were painted grey, strutting around in lingerie; another model was draped across a table, and party-goers nibbled sushi served on her stomach. Kunene's guests included presidential spokesman Zizi Kodwa, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, and Malema's spokesman, Floyd Shivambu. A few days later, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi lashed out at "the BEE types who blow up to R700 000 in one night on parties", calling them members of the "predatory elite", which elicited a intense debate around the morality of the celebration. In response to this event, Muholi has photographed herself as one of the models. She has titled the work 'I am just doing my job', which was the answer one of the models offered when questioned after the event.
The exhibition will open on Thursday 2 December 2010, 6-8pm, and close on Saturday 15 January 2011. The gallery will be open throughout the season except for public holidays. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.