At Frieze New York, Stevenson (booth D11) presents a mini-survey of work by South African-born, Amsterdam-based artist Moshekwa Langa, spanning nearly two decades. It is the result of a year-long trawl through the artist’s personal collection and archive, as well as store rooms as far apart as Brussels and Johannesburg. The fair runs from 5 May to 8 May at Randall's Island Park.
The earliest work in the booth is Cuba, a 1997 video filmed by Langa on board a plane arriving in Havana. The young Langa was en route to the Havana Biennale, and unbeknown to him he shared a cabin with the Prime Minister of Laos, who would be welcomed on the tarmac by Fidel Castro and an accompanying military parade. Another work from Langa’s days at the Rijksakademie is Dor, a set of three flags – one of which is presented here – produced for a solo exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, curated by then-director Chris Dercon. “It was just absurd”, recounted Langa in a review of the show in a Dutch newspaper. “I was invited by the director of the museum to make an exhibition, but when they allocated me space there was no room for anything. It was bullshit.” His solution was to make flags for the exterior of the building, decorated by scarabs – the Egyptian deification of the dung beetle.
Collapsing Guide, on the outside wall facing the restaurant, is a large collage of plastic bags, paper and tape, conceptually and formally similar to Suburban Metro Lines (2000), owned by MoMA and exhibited there in 2011. The collage was widely seen first in 2003, when it was exhibited on Gilane Tawadros’ Fault Lines, within Francesco Bonami’s Dreams and Conflicts – The Viewer’s Dictatorship, at the 50th Venice Biennale, and again between 2004 and 2007, as part of the touring exhibition Africa Remix, curated by Simon Njami. It is dated 2000 – 2003, a common practice by Langa whose elliptical way of working often includes revisiting and changing or finishing older pieces.
The booth design, with its salon hanging and suspended flag, pays tribute to Langa’s 1999 show at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, arguably his most high profile solo show in the United States. From that show the survey includes two performative photographs, titled True Confessions: My Life as a Disco Queen, as told to John Ruskin, as well as round mirrors that functioned as suns of sorts above the landscape of the installation.
The backbone of the booth is formed by Langa’s works on paper, drawings dating from 1999 to 2015. (Very) mixed media – including nail polish, tape, lacquer, collage, pencil, spray paint and acrylic – on paper has always been at the core of Langa’s practice. This includes his ‘word towers’, drawings featuring lists of names of people and places that played a role in his life at any given time. The central wall of the booth includes three large drawings in this vein, one monochrome, one incorporating blue, and one multicoloured example. Lastly, the presentation includes a drawing from Ellipses, the body of work produced for his concurrent solo show at Stevenson in Cape Town. The catalogue for this show is launched here at the fair.
A research table with the many catalogues, surveys, magazines and monographs which feature his work will form a central part of this booth, inviting visitors to become more familiar with one of South Africa’s most important artists.
Opening hours are Thursday 5 May, 11 - 7pm; Friday 6 May, 11 - 8pm; Saturday 7 May, 11 - 7pm; and Sunday 8 May 11 - 6pm.
For details of the fair, see www.friezenewyork.com