Michael Stevenson's 14th annual summer exhibition follows the format of last year's successful projects show. The exhibition focuses on 11 projects in diverse media, some by established artists, others less well-known or showing with the gallery for the first time. The artists are Jane Alexander, Dineo Bopape, Willem Boshoff, Tom Cullberg, Retha Erasmus, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Tracy Payne, Andrew Putter, Berni Searle and Guy Tillim.
Andrew Putter presents a new series of prints titled African Hospitality, following his Hottentots Holland: Flora Capensis series on last year's show. Hundreds of years ago, a number of English travellers were shipwrecked on the remote Pondoland coast of southern Africa. Some of these Europeans were taken in by local tribes and found a new life and culture in Africa, far from their previous lives in England. Presented in the style of grand 18th-century English portrait paintings, Putter's photographic works bring to life these extraordinary 'European Africans'.
Jane Alexander will show a series of photomontages produced for this year's Tirana Biennial with its theme of 'The symbolic efficiency of the frame'. The venue for the exhibition was the Hotel Dajti, constructed during the Fascist occupation of Albania in the 1930s; it served as a hospital during World War II, then a hotel exclusively for foreigners, and is today a national monument that has been looted and vandalised. The loaded spaces of the building form the backgrounds to the Hotel Dajti photomontages, which are occupied by the artist's familiar, uncanny human-animal hybrids.
A series of circular paintings by Tracy Payne, entitled Cape Chakras, displays her acute sense of colour, pattern and design. These oil paintings are in the tradition of sacred art and recall sources as diverse as rose windows and mandalas. The series segments the colour spectrum using Cape flowers as the forms for kaleidoscopic imagery, and reflects on the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth embodied in nature and exemplified by flowers in bloom.
The gallery will show paintings by Tom Cullberg for the first time. In his new series, he paints grids of book and magazine covers that form unexpected portraits of himself and his artist friends. Using the printed matter that lies about in his own studio, and in his friends' studios, he creates narratives that evolve in our minds in relation to our own associations with particular combinations of books and magazines. He also inserts his own fictions into these libraries of ideas by introducing imaginary books and titles into collections. In many respects these works are an interesting extension of his interest in small paintings, albeit gathered together here in rhythmic compositions of images and texts.
Guy Tillim will exhibit a selection of prints from his latest body of work, Roma, Città di Mezzo. This series was commissioned by the FotoGrafia photography festival in Rome and exhibited there in April/May 2009; it is also published as a concertina-format book. In these images, Tillim continues his quiet observation of cities, capturing unexpected moments made up of unassuming yet noteworthy elements, and finding stillness amidst the frantic movement and congestion of the Eternal City.
Willem Boshoff's Windwoorde is an installation of six banners, each woven with a word for the wind, taken from languages indigenous to the main continental areas: Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America and Oceania. Boshoff - who describes himself as primarily a language artist - invokes the wind as the breath of the physical world, and all of the words he has chosen encapsulate this dimension of the wind as both physical and abstract or even spiritual. The banners, woven using recycled plastic by BaPedi craftspeople in Mogalakwena in the far north of South Africa, are installed above granite slabs on which are inscribed the words and their meanings. Alongside will be a series of beaded works also bearing the names of the winds.
Showing at the gallery for the first time will be Sabelo Mlangeni, with a series of photographs titled Men Only taken in and around the George Goch hostel in Johannesburg. Built in 1961 to accommodate migrant mineworkers, today the hostel is home to taxi drivers, security guards and other men brought to the city in search of jobs. It took Mlangeni two years to develop the trust needed to gain access to this world, and his photographs reflect an extraordinary intimacy both between the photographer and his subject, and among the hostel dwellers themselves.
Retha Erasmus will exhibit two large-scale sculptures, Incubator and Intruder. These form part of a series of suspended sculptures (the first was shown at Michael Stevenson on the exhibition In the making: materials and process in 2005) that are strongly geometric and constructivist, and combine contrasting materials including wood, aluminium, nylon line and light. Each is accompanied by an ink drawing in which the many plans for the sculpture are combined and superimposed to provide a single - seemingly chaotic yet precisely ordered - view of the work.
Berni Searle shows a new video, Lull, and related prints, Water's Edge, that form the first works in a new series titled Black smoke rising. These are set in an apparent wilderness that evokes a sense of sanctuary. The tranquillity is disrupted by a tyre set alight, a potent symbol of political protest in South Africa, as well as of poverty. The simmering tensions in the country have the potential to erupt, and, as in the video, black smoke threatens to engulf the garden.
Another new video is by Dineo Seshee Bopape, recently included on the New Museum in New York's trend-setting exhibition The Generational: Younger than Jesus. Her painterly work, Bird's Milk, began as a 'love letter', capturing everyday events in a relationship. When the affair ended, the footage was re-edited in a process of reconfiguring memory, allowing the descriptions of things to bleed into each other and dissolve into fields of colour.
Finally, Zanele Muholi stages an intervention at the opening. Being (T)here is based on a research project in which Muholi put herself on display in the red light district in Amsterdam as part of her ongoing investigations of the lives of black lesbians and the work women do for survival.
The exhibition will open on Thursday 26 November 2009, 6-8pm, and close on Saturday 16 January 2010. 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.
© 2009 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.