Tag Archives: Jack Shainman Gallery

Jack Shainman Gallery Presents 2 Solo Exhibitions of Meleko Mokgosi

Jack Shainman Gallery has announced that it will be be dedicating two solo exhibitions that will feature new work by artist Meleko Mokgosi. The first exhibition “Comrades II” will be open at 24th Street gallery while “Lerato” is on view at the gallery’s 20th Street location. Both are distinct chapters from Democratic Intuition (2014-present), a body of work initially exhibited at the ICA Boston in 2015. “Comrades II” continues Mokgosi’s examination of the historical, aesthetic and conceptual links between southern African liberation movements and communism, while “Lerato” is centered on the concepts of allegory and lerato, the Setswana word that roughly translates as “love.” The art exhibition will be accompanied by written text with imagery in a series of large-scale paintings.

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Art Exhibition Details:

In Democratic Intuition the artist poses questions about how one can approach ideas of the democratic, founded on the simultaneous recognition of alterity and ipseity, in relation to the daily-lived experiences of the subjects that occupy southern Africa. Together, these chapters seek to uncover the manner in which individuals invest intense emotional energy into others and objects and how these investments play out in relation to the democratic.

In “Comrades II”, Mokgosi pays close attention to the ways in which language was used to articulate the fight for freedom and questions how the idea of democracy continues to shape the current state of citizens’ experience and reciprocation of democracy. The exhibition’s title engages the term “comrade,” with its political resonance and implication of egalitarianism, supposedly cutting across gender, racial, ethnic, and class lines. In southern African liberation movements and politics, comrade was specifically used to refer to members of particular parties. In the context of this exhibition, Mokgosi employs the term to complicate its supposed equalizing force.

“Lerato”, produced over a two-year period, was developed around ideas of allegory and lerato (love) and inspired by William-Adolphe Bouguereau‘s paintings as a compositional case study. Mokgosi’s impetus was to experiment with visual and narrative strategies that did not depend on sequential expectations. For Mokgosi, a viewer cannot help but be cognizant of the method of reading and interpretation at the moment he or she begins to engage with any allegorical narrative (whether visual or textual). As a “narrative whose outward appearance is contrived to suggest a hidden meaning” – allegories always involve a re-writing or re-imagining of preexisting texts. Added to this inquiry, and perhaps more importantly, is the unacknowledged fact that William-Adolphe Bouguereau produced paintings, such as The Motherland (1883), during the Scramble for Africa at the turn of the 20th century. Mokgosi expands even more his perspective as to how the grand narratives of history can be unsettled through the concept of historicity:

Broadly speaking, historicity strategically argues that history is not something that happens, but as something that unfolds in different directions yet folds the subject into these multiple directions. History, then, is not an event or collections of events, but rather a number of “unfoldings” that bear the mark of things before. So I tend to think of history as something that is always already present. And language plays a key part too, which is why I did not want to translate the word lerato. My reservation about translation has to do with the fact that translation—as a process that tries to close the gap between two languages—is based on Western conventions (here anthropological, there ethnographic) of reality, representation and knowledge. Beyond these old politics within history, the words love and lerato differ in that the Setswana word is commonly used as a proper noun for women. The same cannot be said for the word love, which although poetic, is limited to every other world except for the one in which it can be used daily as a proper noun to summon a mother’s child.  Lerato is compelling to me because it is not an abstract and poetic concept that is supposedly opaque and fleeting, but rather it is as concrete as any human subject. Meleko Mokgosi

The Jack Shainman gallery exhibition will be open until October 22 2016.

Meleko Mokgosi
Lerato and Comrades II
Date:  8 – October 22, 2016  

Address: 513 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011, United States

 

Toyin Ojih Odutola + Interview Magazine

Huge congrats to Nigerian artist Toyin Ojih Odutola for this week’s feature in Interview Magazine! The article features an interview of the 30-year old artist with Emily McDermott. She talks about her latest series of works in black and white and her ongoing art exhibition at Jack Shainman gallery.

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Following is a quick snippet of the piece:

“Well, it started with Hank Willis Thomas, as it always does,” artist Toyin Ojih Odutola says of her latest series of work. Now on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, “Of Context and Without” marks numerous departures in terms of the artist’s traditional oeuvre. Her ballpoint pen portraits have almost always depicted black men, including her brothers, or herself, and she often interspersed black ink with varied colors. The works in this show, however, are monochromatic and Ojih Odutola also strayed from pure pen and ink, introducing both white and black charcoal as well as graphite. Perhaps even more notably than the changes in medium, the show’s subject matter denotes an entirely new territory for the 30-year-old artist: iconic white men are rendered with black skin tones and white hair; men and women interact in a way such that one cannot tell if the action is violent or tender; drawings of black men are made with white charcoal on white board; and sketches are included within final pieces. For the artist, these departures, though drastic, were much needed.

“I was scared at first, there was trepidation. But now, there’s so much movement,” Ojih Odutola explains when we speak with her in the lower level of the Chelsea gallery. “It frees me. I feel like I can roam, which, trust me girl, is something you really want.”

Born in Nigeria and raised in Alabama, Ojih Odutola received her B.A. from the University of Alabama in Hunstville before continuing to California College of the Arts for her M.F.A. “Of Context and Without” marks the artist’s fourth solo show in just as many years at Jack Shainmain, but she has also participated in group exhibitions around the world—including one that Thomas curated at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and another at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is still on view.

More than traveling for her work, “I always travel through it when I’m making it,” she says. “I always think of my work in terms of landscape, because it is plains, hills, and valleys. There’s a sculptural element, a tactility to it,” she continues. “The textures, to me, are landscapes.” Just after the show’s opening, we met the artist to discuss her practice’s changes, the constructs of whiteness and blackness, and of course, traveling.

EMILY MCDERMOTT: The series of white men are the first portraits of white men you’ve ever made in this scale. What led to that decision?

TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA: Hank [curated] “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” and the premise of that show was to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. It was shown in South Africa, in Johannesburg, and I thought, “This is an American artist talking about race in a completely different context.” I knew my work was known for black subjects and I didn’t want to portray black victimhood, so I thought, “What can I tackle? Let me be really cerebral about this…” I wanted to tackle blackness as a subject—not the men, but blackness itself—and how it negates or devalues a subject, at least in our Western construct. Then I thought, “How am I going to make this even more clever? Let me do famous white guys.”

MCDERMOTT: Some of them I can easily recognize—there’s Mick Jagger, Picasso, Reagan—but others, I’m like, “I have no idea who that is.”

OJIH ODUTOLA: And that’s the beauty of it, because the blackness usurps. The reason we’re showing it in a grid was because it’s like the lineup, the mug shots. There’s one of Benedict Cumberbatch in a hoodie. The guy went to Harrow [School, an English independent school for boys], but does that matter? Because the moment he’s rendered in blackness and a hoodie, what do you think?

MCDERMOTT: Who is on the bottom right? He’s the only man whose head is cropped, rather than rendered in full.

OJIH ODUTOLA: That’s Bobby Fischer. He was the first one. That was a test and usually the test is the one you’re not quite sure about. I thought, “Maybe if I make it really extreme…” But then I decided, “No, I want them to be traditional head shots.” I loved how severe he looked in the photo; it’s unsettling. There’s an interview with Bobby Fischer, where he talks about being Jewish, being raised Jewish, and his issues with that. But once I render him black, his Jewishness is gone, washed away. So there were certain subjects I picked specifically, but there were others, like Prince Charles, that I just thought, “Why not?”

MCDERMOTT: Were you sourcing images online?

OJIH ODUTOLA: There’s many departures in this show, but that’s one of them—I’m using sourced material. It’s not mine, but it doesn’t have to be mine because I transform them in the treatment of the work. Does it matter where it comes from? What it becomes is what I’m interested in. There were a few that I found on Google. Then there was some stuff I found in books.

To read the entire story click here.

Photo Credit: VICENTE MUÑOZ.