Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
2 July – 13 August 2015
In “Murderer” Jessica Webster situates her painting practice as a dark interface between the performativity of narrative and the (dis)order of perception. By stepping into the murky world of cinema, and by using the word “Murderer” in its parenthesised form, Webster appears to be placing herself in the midst of dramatic action: torture, revenge and triumph. Yet the title of the exhibition also implies culpability.
Using a ‘found’ Korean action thriller by director Kim Jee Woon, entitled A Bittersweet Life (2005), Webster works with paint and encaustic wax on large and small-scale film stills (computer-generated screenshots), which have been printed onto synthetic and slippery digital canvas. In the film, the narrative plays out a well-known sequence of events: the misbegotten hero who undergoes creative levels of torture by his enemies and thus goes out to seek retribution and revenge. For Webster, the story seems to lie close to the collective consciousness of South African society.
Doubly, it resonates on a personal level: as a survivor of extreme violence Webster is interested in levels of account and accountability. Layered micro-narratives add to suggestive subtitles, causing uncertainty about the authenticity of the story. Meanwhile photojournalism, photographs taken by the artist and the familiar presence of nature in an urban setting provide a real and sinister backdrop to something despairingly playful.
Jessica Webster is a Jo’burg-based painter and writer. Born in the Free State in 1981, her painting was included on the group exhibition [Working Title] at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2013. Previously she held a recognized debut exhibition titled I Knew You in this Dark at David Krut Projects in 2009. She has had two more solo shows in the interim: Original Skin, an exhibition of print works and paintings at David Krut Projects in 2011; and Mainly Benoni at Nirox Projects in 2012.
Webster obtained her BA degree in Fine Arts from the Michaelis School of Art at the University of Cape Town, where she was awarded the Judy Stein Painting Award in 2005. Since 2011 she is working to complete her PhD in philosophy and painting through Wits University, in the progress of which she has received the Mellon Wits Postgraduate Merit, and Oppenheimer awards. She has published a number of critical and creative essays.
Goodman Gallery Cape Town
15 December 2016 – 14 January 2017
Lisa Brice / Kudzanai Chiurai / David Goldblatt / Alfredo Jaar / Samson Kambalu / Kendell Geers / William Kentridge / Liza Lou / Gerald Machona / Gerhard Marx / Shirin Neshat / Walter Oltmann / The Brother Moves On / Jessica Webster
For its end-of-year Summer Show, Goodman Gallery Cape Town has gathered together a selection of important pieces from both new and existing bodies of work by its artists. Taken as a whole, the show presents a textured and vibrant series of engagements with the artists’ social and political environments through photography, sculpture, drawing, prints and video. The exhibition serves an as opportunity to show works not yet seen in Cape Town, and to introduce visitors to artists newly represented by the gallery.
Despite its title, David Golblatt’s A family picnic in the north-west. 15 August 2009 focuses on a macro view of the landscape and structures in which this human scene is taking place. The photograph illustrates Goldblatt’s change in narrative style since shifting to working in colour. As writer Christoph Danelzik-Brüggemann says in the book Intersections: “In parallel with a continued emphasis on striking human situations, in landscapes he developed a visual language that accorded more meaning to space than to time. The formats became larger and a plethora of extremely precisely recorded details (blades of grass, stones, person) combined to form tableaux which the viewer’s eye can explore at leisure. As an overall picture emerges from these details, the viewer becomes aware that the image tells of our times, of the people who live in this land, and of the forces that shape it.”
Walter Oltmann’s Bristle Disguise uses woven alumnium and razor wire to reference local craft traditions. Covered in spikes that recall both the elaborate dress often used in ritualised African dance and the pulsating energy radiated in the activity, his bodysuit merges craft and art. Oltmann has researched and written extensively on the use of wire in African material culture in South Africa and is deeply interested in the influence of these traditions in contemporary South African art. “In my sculptures I use images of natural phenomena (human, plant and animal) and play with the idea of mutation, hybrids and reconfiguring the familiar. Through dramatically enlarging and/or transposing features of one to the other, I play with the paradox between vulnerability and the monstrous. Using the language of craft, my artworks are always a product of labour and time,” he says.
In 2005, American artist Liza Lou first travelled to South Africa to initiate an art project with Zulu beadworkers. Starting with 12 women from the surrounding townships of KwaZulu-Natal, Lou’s project has flourished and has now grown to a collective of over 25 artisans. Her commitment to this community of Zulu women and to exploring the process and testing the limits of her chosen material has led to a minimal, contemplative practice in which the material has become the subject. Untitled #13 is a prime example of the end result; a formal object that, through subtle imperfections, bears witness to the manual labour and personal investment at stake.
Country of my skull was one of the installations included on The Brother Moves On’s solo exhibition, Hlabelela, at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg. The exhibition questioned each member’s personal histories, cultural background and beliefs as a means of unsettling the idea of a homogenised black experience and its acceptance by white art institutions and discourse. The performances, installations and videos explored the complex identity of black youthful opposition but also questioned whether these contemporary traditions can exist within the established traditions of art institutions and art discourse.
Lisa Brice’s Well Worn 5 was part of a body of work that featured a cast of female protagonists engaged in autobiographical acts of looking and being looked at. Grooming, making up, stripping down, dressing up within the confines of domestic, private or veiled interiors, they range from depictions of adoration and loathing, to defiance and reinvention. The mirror reflection reoccurs as a central motif, simultaneously functioning as an alter-ego and an imagined audience beyond the private, as well as a formal device within the painting.
In Life Magazine, April 19, 1968, Alfredo Jaar deconstructs a renowned photograph of Martin Luther King’s funeral that provides a stark visual essay on the racial prejudices that lead to King’s assassination. The work typifies Jaar’s interest in the politics of images: their effect on modern society ”bombarded by thousands of images without warning, without mercy, containing messages of consumption crafted by marketing and communications experts”. He directs the viewer to the parts of the visual experience that they may not have considered in their reckoning of who has power, who does not, and why.
Samson Kambalu’s Nyau Cinema consists of site-specific performances captured on and made in conversation with the medium of film. Born in Malawi and now based in London, Kambalu regards his work as a form of playful dissent that fuses the Nyau gift-giving culture of the Chewa, the anti-reification theories of the Situationist movement and the Protestant tradition of inquiry, criticism and dissent. “In my tribe, the Chewa, excess time and resources are not sold; instead it is squandered in ‘useless’ activities such as the arts, funerals, initiations etc. – all led by Nyau masks,” he says. “The role of the Nyau mask is thus to orchestrate the giving of gifts,” which in a capitalist culture, he explains, would be considered the squandering of surplus time and wealth. He invokes the concept of “Gule Wamkulu” (literally the “Great Play”), a ritual masked dance performed by the Chewa, which he describes as “really the creation of ‘Situations’, where a gift can be given without incurring a debt”.
Gerhard Marx’s Transparent Territory series consists of drawings that have been constructed from the fragments of decommissioned and discarded terrestrial maps. The focus in these works is on the act of taking the flat, rectangular depictions of landmass and territory (which maps are intended to be), and reconfiguring them into mineral-like geometric constructions in which folds, facets and overlays construct spatial illusions along with a sense of depth and interiority within the flatness of the map. The series takes inspiration from early depictions of perspectival illusion, most notably Giotto’s clustering of architectural structures. The works also burrow into the flatness of geographic depiction through an act of ‘cartographic mining’, in which the solidity of the earth’s surface is ruptured into a transparent palimpsest of geography and historical time that undermines the authority and singular viewpoint of the two-dimensional map.
Kudzanai Chiurai’s Genesis [Je n’isi isi] CI and Genesis [Je n’isi isi] XI, from his photographic series of the same name, recount the stories of the men who ventured with Livingstone into unexplored territories in central Africa. They included other Europeans who sought similar adventures and the porters and guides who bore the weight of their supplies as well as slaves freed from Arab slave traders. It re-imagines Livingstone’s journey with the guiding principles that Christianity and commerce were inseparable.
Drawing is at the heart of William Kentridge’s artistic practice, forming the basis for works in other media, particularly film. South Africa’s preeminent contemporary artist, Kentridge has earned international acclaim for his layered and complex work, which includes operas, theatre productions and films incorporating his own sculpture and drawings as well as collaborations with dancers and composers. Waiting for the Fire, a large-scale drawing in Indian ink, illustrates his facility as a draughtsman, clearly evident in the animated charcoal drawings that first brought him to the world’s attention.
In the series Our House Is On Fire, originally made as a special commission for the Rauschenberg Foundation, Shirin Neshat was inspired by time she spent in Egypt in the aftermath of the revolution in 2011. In close-up portraits and details of hands and feet, meticulously inscribed with the words of poets of the Iranian revolution, Neshat tells a story of loss and mourning particular to her subjects and simultaneously universal.
In Untitled (Influx I) Gerald Machona has collaborated with Mozambican choreographer Guiamba to create a performance-based installation that seeks to transform migratory objects and garments. A Zimbabwean now living in South Africa, Machona’s work has dealt repeatedly with the theme of migration. Crucial to this artwork is an attempt to disrupt the 55-minute hour scheme used by Cape Town garment factories, where an assembly line of seamstresses was governed by a clock that would run 55 minutes of production and 5 minutes of recess every hour. Rather than rely on a clock to keep time and a metronome to indicate tempo, the artists have drawn rhythm from a sewing machine to stitch together the dance and installation.
Every year Jessica Webster dedicates some time to working as roughly and freely as possible with ink and bleach on paper. “By now I have amassed a huge stack of A3 works, but I see this set of earlier pieces as some of the most successful.” Using ink and paper allows the artist “to get back in touch with some of the fundamentals of my practice: this is the relationship between the two-dimensional surface and the imaginary spaces that composition orders,” she says. Inks 1-15 references Sol Le Witt’s series of drawings Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (1974). “While Le Witt’s work is interpreted as symbolising the purely visual metaphors of rationality and the Enlightenment subject, my painted copies evoke the more fragile and unstable aspects of geometry. Using Le Witt’s series as readymade references me to focus on how the bare minimum of painterly strokes can create conflict between the sense of depth caused by geometrical perspective and the fluidity and gesturality of hand-painted lines. In some of the works I continue this investigation with other objects, provoking the imaginary sites upon which geometry and order comes to be projected.”
Goodman Gallery Cape Town
2 June – 20 July
In 2016, Goodman Gallery celebrates its 50th anniversary – five decades of forging change through artistic production and dialogue, shaping contemporary art within and beyond the continent. From early June, we will host major exhibitions between our Johannesburg and Cape Town galleries featuring significant work, installations, interventions, performances, a video and talks programmes.
Titled New Revolutions, our programme will include prominent international and African artists – each part of the Goodman Gallery’s history, present and future – engaging with the idea of perpetual change, alternative independent movements and the reinvigorating of ideology based upon mutable historical realities. The project as a whole will consider Goodman Gallery’s history as an inclusive space, as well as its approach to showing contemporary art that shifts perspectives and engenders social transformation.
New Revolutions recalls the fulcrum of activity into which the gallery was borne 50 years ago: revolutionary fervour, the gradual decolonisation of African countries and radical responses to the status quo. Locally, the gallery maintained a responsibility to show work by South African artists as museums served the agenda of the discriminatory government. By transcending its role as a commercial space Goodman Gallery rose to prominence as a progressive institution. And, while South Africa was deep in the throes of a draconian era, figures within the fight for African independence trail-blazed the struggle against apartheid. This exhibition reflects on how the events in Africa then, still play a part in the conceptual thinking of artists now. And, beyond that, how artists have responded to new forms of economic colonisation, migrancy, as well as radicalised reactions to economic inequality and lingering institutional racism.
By considering how the roles of artists cross into the realm of activism and socially transformative endeavours, New Revolutions explores historical and contemporary tensions and movements that are unfolding in Africa and around the world, through the panorama of contemporary art.
The 2016 anniversary programme highlights Goodman Gallery’s ongoing affiliation with artists who explore the power of dissent and the importance of alternative factions and cross-disciplinary collaborations in order to engender change and encourage dialogue. A non-chronological, intergenerational but conceptually linked collection of artworks from the 1960s to the present will focus on the spirit of protest, resistance, and revolution, and the way in which South Africa, and Goodman Gallery in particular, has offered an important platform from which to explore such approaches.
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary Goodman Gallery takes pleasure in announcing new partnerships with some of the world’s most significant artists – Sonia Gomes (Brazil), Kiluanji Kia Henda (Angola), Shirin Neshat (Iran) – revealing new directions in the gallery’s programme. Locally, we announce the representation by Goodman Gallery of Tabita Rezaire and The Brother Moves On. In addition, the exhibition will include work by international artists Kapwani Kiwanga (US) and Jacolby Satterwhite (US).
New Revolutions will provide an opportunity to exhibit those who have worked with the gallery for decades including William Kentridge, David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, David Goldblatt and Tracey Rose, and some of the most influential younger voices in contemporary art including Kudzanai Chiurai, Hasan and Husain Essop, Mikhael Subotzky, Gerald Machona and Haroon Gunn-Salie. The show will also include artists who have been integral in the gallery’s transformation over the past decade, including Ghada Amer, Candice Breitz, Alfredo Jaar, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, and Hank Willis Thomas. Performances will be presented by local innovators, Nelisiwe Xaba and The Brother Moves On.
Beyond this, the iconic significance of the gallery, and the historical moment necessitates that certain artists whose ideas and actions impacted on society, and on the course of art history, be included. Artists like Walter Wahl Battis, Cecil Skotnes, Ezrom Legae, Leonard Matsotso and Sydney Khumalo are exhibited as part of our endeavour to show how the regeneration of ideas – and the gallery as a repository of change – is not confined to epochs.
With New Revolutions we invite you to celebrate with Goodman Gallery as we pay homage to artists who have shaped the landscape of contemporary art in Southern Africa. These include artists based on the continent, those of the Diaspora, our northern counterparts who have been distanced from sub-Saharan Africa and those from outside of Africa whose work explores territory such as unequal power structures and socio-political constructs.
New Revolutions is curated by Liza Essers and will take place throughout the month of June at our Johannesburg and Cape Town galleries, and with a special selection of works for Art Basel from 16 June to 19 June.
The launch of the [Working Title] 2013 catalogue will happen at The Goodman Gallery Johannesburg on 25 November, timed to coincide with the closing day [Working Title] 2014 at Goodman Gallery Cape Town.
The [Working Title] series is focused on developing work that can go beyond the run of the exhibition, and it is important that the catalogue exist in a similar way. The texts aim to extend the questions and subversions the artists provoke as opposed to just explaining and describing the works on show.
Some texts take the form of conversations – Raimi Gbadamosi and Gerald Machona discuss the role of art in representing tragedy and violence while Haroon Gunn-Salie, Simon Castets and Hans-Ulrich Obrist discuss the role of intervention and activism in Gunn-Salie’s practice.
Other contributions like Jessica Webster’s short stories, the co–authored essay by The Brother Moves On and the Frown’s manifesto of worship – are texts which exist as self referential semi fiction.
Kalia Brooks, Adjunct Professor in Photography at the Tisch School of the Arts, explores themes of control and compassion in Tegan Bristow’s interactive video work Coming and going but never leaving. Bristow herself reviews the use of digital and online media in Cuss Group’s work Untitled (Johannesburg screen saver) arguing that medium is definitive in representing the state of South Africa’s socio-political climate. In his analysis of Vinatge Cru, anthropologist and director of the LGBT rights programme at human rights watch, Graeme Reid investigates the centrality of performance to queer visibility in South Africa. Adreinne Edwards, associate curator at Performa New York writes on Nelisiwe Xaba and Mocke van Vueren’s work Uncles and Angels, understanding the work as an experimental meditation on ritual, the feminine, technology. Working Title exists as a space where relationships between the Goodman Gallery and artists, creatives and writers can be incubated.
The catalogue launch will happen alongside an exhibition which showcases works, performances and collaborations which have happened post [Working Title] 2013. Haroon Gunn-Salie, Jessica Webster and Johan Thom – all of whom have solo exhibitions next year with the Goodman Gallery – will exhibit works which are in preparation for their respective exhibitions or which have happened in association with the Goodman Gallery.
Gerald Machona, who was awarded the [Working Title] award in 2013 will exhibit a new series of ‘dictators’ headgear’ made from his trademark medium of decommissioned currency. A film made by The Brother Moves On, which focuses on the collaborative performances done since 2013 will be screened at the gallery.
The [Working Title] exhibitions are part of an initiative by the Goodman Gallery aimed at supporting young artists, curators, independent projects and major installations and performances.
[Working Title] 2014 is currently on show at The Goodman Gallery Cape Town and focuses on artists based outside of Cape Town – Johannesburg, Nigeria, Benin, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States – but whose work raises universal questions about place, justice, and individual action and responsibility, questions that resonate with a particular urgency in Cape Town in 2014.
The Goodman Gallery is proud to announce that Bogosi Sekhukhuni is this year’s recipient of the [Working Title] Prize. The [Working Title] Prize is awarded every year to an artist who has participated on the [Working Title] exhibition. The award is aimed at recognising and supporting young artists and assisting them in developing their work. The substantial prize is not confined to any one specific exhibition, and the artists may use the money awarded to further their careers in any way they deem fit. Last year’s winner was Gerald Machona, who used the prize in the realisation of his solo exhibition Vabvakure (People from Far Away), this year. Bogosi Sekhukhuni works with drawing, installation and video, and is engaged in works which allow for an exploration of the role online forums and technology play in “reimagining our identity”. His work has been shown on Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets’ co-curated exhibition 89plus, and this year he participated in a residency at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris.
Vusi Beauchamp / Jaco Bouwer / Tegan Bristow / The Brother Moves On / Cuss Group / The Frown & Vintage Cru / Haroon Gunn-Salie in collaboration with Dereleen James / Murray Kruger / Gerald Machona / Misheck Masamvu / Tiffany Mentoor / Thenjiwe Nkosi / Johan Thom / MJ Turpin / Jessica Webster / Nelisiwe Xaba & Mocke van Veuren
In July this year Goodman Gallery Johannesburg will present the group exhibition [Working Title] 2013. This is the second installment of the annual group exhibition of the same name, the first of which premiered at Goodman Gallery Cape Town in 2012 and was curated by Federico Freschi. The [Working Title] exhibitions are part of a new initiative by the Goodman Gallery aimed at supporting young artists, curators, independent projects and major installations and performances.
In the past Goodman Gallery has collaborated with independent curators such as Simon Njami and Bettina Malcomess, who curated the US exhibition, part of which was shown at Goodman Gallery Projects at Arts on Main in 2009. In 2010 independent curator and academic Nontobeko Ntombela curated the exhibition Layers at Goodman Gallery Projects as part of her ongoing research into the creative strategies of women artists, in particular those that aim to contextualise socio-political issues. In 2011 Goodman Gallery curators Tony East and Claire van Blerck produced The Night Show, a 3-part exhibition staged at Goodman Gallery Cape Town, which sought to destabilise the notion of the white cube and to engage with contemporary art practice on its own terms, courting the spontaneous and embracing the ephemeral.
Previous projects also include the site specific street performance Cut / Cute by Joel Andrianomearisoa, which premiered in Johannesburg as part of SA Fashion Week, and Nelisiwe Xaba and Mocke van Veuren’s performance Uncles and Angels, which was presented at Goodman Gallery Projects as part of the Dance Umbrella.
Goodman Gallery continues to collaborate with academics and theorists, and has hosted lectures by Jane Taylor, Federico Freschi and Alfredo Jaar – whose lecture coincided with his 2012 exhibition at the Goodman Gallery Gold in the Morning – and panel discussions with David Goldblatt, Ivan Vladislavic and Marlene van Niekerk.
While Goodman Gallery Projects closed at Arts on Main in 2012, the [Working Title] exhibition series exists as a resolution to the Goodman Gallery’s continued interest in independent and collaborative projects and allows for the continuation of previous projects and relationships, as well as the introduction of new artists, theorists and creatives into the Goodman Gallery. Each year the [Working Title] exhibition will have a new curator, either from the Goodman Gallery or through collaboration with an invited external curator.
This year’s [Working Title] is curated by Emma Laurence and includes artists who are pushing the limits of the contemporary South African art scene and who have produced work that is at the cutting edge of current art production. The exhibition is concerned with works that are born out of dynamic and independent practice. Included in the exhibition are artists who work across disciplines and who bring into the perceived elite gallery space sub-cultural aesthetics and standpoints.
The show incorporates artists working in various and perhaps unconventional media such as 3-D cinema, interactive gaming, short stories and punk inspired performance, as well as artists who begin to interrogate modes of representation and viewing in painting and photography. During the run of the show, a series of scheduled events will take place as part of [Working Title] and will include an off-site project by Cuss Group called Video Party, a performance after the opening by The Frown and The Brother Moves On and an opening address and lecture by distinguished theorist Achille Mbembe, who will speak on “The Postcolony Revisited”. Professor Mbembe’s lecture is co-sponsored by WISER (Wits Institute for Economic Research).
Jessica Webster is a Joburg-based painter and writer. Born in the Free State in 1981, she is fascinated by the disjunctures and elisions manifested in interpretation of South African society and artistic identity through a Western discursive framework.
‘Making sense’ of experience, particularly in and through painting, has led to a current and profound yet ironic affiliation with practices of abstraction and the probing of figurative tensions theorised precisely within the last 100 years of European and American discourses on aesthetics and in the main.
Aware of the contradiction, she nevertheless attempts to escape the doctrinaire while avoiding any literal orientation to Afro-neoexpressionist form.
To break with the affective heterogeneity of the painted medium entirely and its historical scopic regime (in all its violence) feels too much like a sterilizing cop-out, and so like many South African creatives living and working in a fraughtly exhilarating period, she balances on the hinge between the mundane and the uncanny, the profane and the sacred – in life as much as in her painting.
As an emerging painter in the South African art scene, I recently exhibited my first solo show at David Krut Projects (July 2009) to great success, with the Johannesburg Art Gallery acquiring a centrepiece of the show. Previously, I did my undergraduate degree at Michaelis School of Fine Arts in Cape Town, where I finished winning the Judy Stein Painting Prize (December 2005).
In between these auspicious events, I had the poor fortune of being shot in a household robbery, from which I emerged paralysed from the waist down. During my show at David Krut Projects, my injury generated a lot of interest in the extent to which my trauma has influenced my art-making.
It is a question that I ask myself too, and I have reached the conclusion that it is yes, and I perceive this horrific but invaluable life experience in the following way: I have come to see the stream of events that make up the routine and trajectory of life as full of holes.
Through these holes, one is subjected to a strange awakening of the impossibly intense nature of the moment; a moment in which conscious and subconscious realities seem to collide in devastating and wondrous simultaneity. I feel that my trauma has made me particularly alive to these holes; a hyper-awareness of the moments, both good and bad, that rupture the daily life-bubble. It is these moments which I aspire to recreate or project onto canvas.
Therefore, my injury does not affect or direct my subject-matter so much as it provides an empathic source for interpretation of my subject-matter. My interest in painting is therefore less on the subject of pleasure or suffering that life experience has to offer.
Rather, my concerns are based on what may lie between these subjective outcomes – the products of restless exchange between inner and outer worlds, fantasy and reality, private and public spaces.
I see my paintings as functioning in this terrain for the manner in which the painted surface may evoke these relationships, as an embodied relationship between surface and materiality.
It is through this ever-evolving and performative process that I feel my paintings may visualize the delimiting, or as often the overwhelming vagaries that penetrate the more ‘normal’ sense of the everyday, and ‘speak’ about the underlying currents through which life revolves.
2015 ‘Murderer’, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2009 I Knew You in this Dark, David Krut Projects, Johannesburg, South Africa
2016 New Revolutions: Goodman Gallery at 50 Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2013 [WORKING TITLE] Catalogue Launch, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2010 DKW Monotype Project, DKW gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
In Conversation with Matthew Krouse
2 July 2015
For the exhibition “Murderer”, Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
13 min 24 sec
Press for Jessica Webster
Jessica Webster / The Times / South Africa / 7 July 2015Art For Revenge's Sake By Sylvia McKeown (1.4 MB)