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.
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.
Lerato and Comrades II
Date: 8 – October 22, 2016
Address: 513 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011, United States