This January, Goodman Gallery presents Promise Land, the first solo show by acclaimed artist/ sculptor Stuart Bird. In a series of meticulously and often obsessively hand-crafted sculptures and installations, Bird explores the position of the artist and the individual in contemporary South Africa.
South Africa is the land of promise of the title – a country full of exciting dynamism, but, conversely a potentially dangerous and fraught land. The title also alludes to the promised land of Canaan in the Hebrew bible – a mythical place of abundance that was never quite realized. Over the Rainbow, a glittering arch constructed out of broken shards of mirror, is both a welcome and a warning – a reminder that the place to which it grants access remains a fantasy that can be visited but never inhabited. And in Change, a floor sculpture spelling out the word ‘struggle’ in hand-carved African mahogany, coins are imbedded in the wood like bullet-holes; a violent symbol of an economic struggle barely begun.
Promise Land is also about a personal struggle – a process of working through and coming to terms with the country’s legacy of conflict and violence, an inheritance that we have no choice but to live with. Chip Off the old Block is a noose carved out of Imbuia and suspended from the ceiling, a pile of chips underneath as a memory or reminder of the original raw material. It is an equivocal symbol, simultaneously pointing to the systemic violence of a public execution and the quiet despair of suicide; and in Blood Knot Bird invokes the metaphor of a climbing knot to consider the forces that bind South Africans historically whilst causing tension in the present.
The presence of the artist is central to the exhibition: the careful, painstaking carving of each letter and shape from a block of raw wood, and the slow and repetitive sanding and polishing of each layer and surface can be read as a kind of ritual, or perhaps an atonement – a process of coming to terms with that which is the status quo. Combining with a central desire to create a coherent object of beauty.
Stuart Bird was born in Benoni, Johannesburg, 1977, grew up in Durban, and currently lives and works in Cape Town. He received his MFA from the University of Cape Town in 2008. Prior to studying he apprenticed as a church interior restorer in the UK, and he has been involved in various community-based initiatives. Bird has exhibited locally and internationally on various group shows and art fairs. He is represented by Goodman Gallery.
Goodman Gallery Cape presents Summer Show – opening on 15 December and running until 14 January. The exhibition has been designed as a review, focusing on new and recent work by South Africans artists either represented by or associated with the gallery. Important works from series produced by the artists over the past year are showcased, and the show also features a selection of works recently shown at the gallery’s Johannesburg spaces.
The exhibition includes prints from Siemon Allen‘s Records series, in which the artist explores images of South Africa through the collection and archiving of music records from the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day. Photography is strongly represented, with works from Jodi Bieber’s vibrant, urban-denizen take in her Soweto series, in marked contrast with David Goldblatt’s large-scale colour prints of rural South Africa. Mikhael Subotzky (who recently won the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art) and Patrick Waterhouse show recent work from their ongoing collaboration on the Ponte City project.
A text piece by Stuart Bird is shown in anticipation of his upcoming solo show in January, Gerhard Marx presents exquisitely detailed and artisanally worked surfaces in his new works, continuing his preoccupation with notions of mapping, place and nature, and Walter Oltmann shows a powerful new addition in aluminium wire to his series of insect suit sculptures.
Paintings by Moshekwa Langa, Lisa Brice and Clive van den Berg explore abstraction and gesture in different ways; all three have produced significant bodies of new works which were well received during 2011. Minnette Vari‘s uncanny brush and ink drawings of the goddess/crone Baubo sit in awkward dialogue with Kendell Geers’ La Sainte Vierge.
This exhibition affords a fascinating look at the output of some of South Africa’s major artists, and will also showcase from our Johannesburg spaces works not yet shown in Cape Town, including Kudzanai Chiurai’s Revelations, a series of photographic tableaux exploring politics and power in Africa, new wood sculptures by Willem Boshoff, and a selection of drawings, linocut graphics and sculpture by William Kentridge.
The Joburg Art Fair was started three years ago by Artlogic with First National Bank as the primary sponsor.
It is the only art fair on the African continent and the only art fair in the world to focus on African contemporary art. Over the three year period it has become a meeting place for those interested in African contemporary art. The Joburg Art Fair is a small, boutique Fair committed to showcasing the best galleries interested in this region.
As it is the only large scale annual visual arts event in South Africa, the Fair makes an effort to give exposure to artists who work outside of the gallery circuit and routinely curate spaces for tertiary institutions, or project spaces that result from proposals submitted to Artlogic.
Each year our visitor numbers grow to include more foreigners, more students, and more of the general public interested in this kind of high-end contemporary event.
For 2011, we are working to curate a space that is welcoming and where visitors can spend an entire day. We are creating a food area that will sport four of the country’s top wine estates and a Pommery Champagne lounge in association with St Leger and Viney and Business Day Wanted Magazine.
EXHIBITION (PART ONE): 31 MARCH – 13 APRIL
EXHIBITION (PART TWO) & THE NIGHT SHOW EVENT: WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL AT 18H00
EXHIBITION (PART THREE): 14 APRIL – 30 APRIL
STUART BIRD | NASTASHA BURATOVICH | IAN GROSE | GUGULECTIVE | MATTHEW KING | ROSE KOTZE | GERALD MACHONA | KYLE MORLAND | MUSA NXUMALO | JODY PAULSEN | MONIQUE PELSER | JEANNIE ROUX | SIYA | SAFIA STODAL | LINDA STUPART | ZACH TALJAARD | HUGH UPSHER
The night is traditionally considered a temporal condition, or a time of obscurity. A shedding space where defined personas, highly regulated by the brilliant contrast of daylight and its custodians, give way to concealed and ambiguous forms. This shedding is also manifested in the buildings and structures of the city as the sun goes down. This April, Goodman Gallery Cape is proud to present a group exhibition staged in three parts that aims to explore some of the themes introduced by the night, as well as to re-imagine gallery space, stripped of its daytime persona.
The first stage of the show is an exhibition opening on the evening of the 31st March and running to the 13th April. This exhibition will present the night as anticipatory. Sweat and teenage desire mix with quiet anxiety, the threat of violence suggested by shadows, and the possibility of escaping into the world of cinema beckons – a welcome anaesthetic to lurking crises.
In its second incarnation taking place on the evening of the 13th April, The Night Show will exist as a happening; an event that forms the fulcrum around which the exhibition’s more concrete manifestations revolve. This section of the show aims to be a frenetic event-night that showcases site-specific, installation-oriented, time-based and performative works. A particular focus is given to the re-presentation of underutilised spaces such as storage and balcony areas, parking spaces and rooftops, as potential spaces for artworks.
In response to this event, from the 14th April the original exhibition will be reconfigured as a retrospective interrogation of work shown thus far. This stage of the exhibition focuses on traces of what was, what wasn’t and what could still be. The grey, early hours of the morning after the night before will focus more on documentation, quieter imagery and contemplative themes. The haze of the event will linger like the whine of last night’s music in tired ears.
‘Language’ is the system of communication, in the form of speech and writing, employed by a specific group of people, usually originating from a specific geographical area or region. Human language is inseparable from human thought and distinguishes man from animals.
Different aspects of language had become the source for many conceptual artworks by the time the group Art & Language was founded by Michael Baldwin, David Bainbridge, Terry Atkinson, and Harold Hurrell in 1968. These artists considered language to be a crucial aspect of their practice, in which they critiqued the underlying assumptions of modern painting and sculpture, formalist processes, art practices, production, and criticism. Since the 1970s, language has been seen as a means of moving from form and image-based works to a more theoretical and conceptual artistic discourse. This shift, away from the image and towards text, has led to a new relationship between image and text, in which images are translated to symbols, and symbols to text. It has meant that text – rather than image – becomes a basis for art production, which in turn has meant the appearance of ‘art as idea’.
Questioning the process of art production, American artists like Jenny Holzer have built on the traditions of conceptual and installation art of the late 1960s. Holzer developed a mode of textual art during the 1970s, using electronic signs and various printed media to explore language and text as a form of art. Her ‘Inflammatory Essays’, conceived in the late 1970s, are indicative of the way in which she has created a division between text and image. Prior to this, Joseph Kosuth proposed the use of text in his work as means of replacing painting, exploring the production and role of language and meaning in art. Text in Kosuth’s work of the 1960s facilitates a conceptual mode of production and the dissolution of the art object.
Language continued to be fundamental in the work of many American artists during the 1980s. Lorna Simpson, for example, used language as a device to move away from purely image-based photography. Simpson’s combination of text and photography allowed her to construct readings of the black woman as an erotic curiosity and, at the same time, to change the simple reading of images, and to create layers of signification in her work.
In the contemporary South African context, artists such as Willem Boshoff make works which are informed by language. Boshoff’s sculptures and dictionaries suggest a relationship with language that extends beyond the simple use of text, to a specific interest in language itself and what constitutes language as a form.
Similarly, Frances Goodman has explored the desires, compulsions, insecurities, and obsessions hidden in our use of language, saying that ‘After working with a number of media I eventually found that words and language had the uncanny ability to unnerve and get under people’s skins, in a way that visual images and modes could not … sometimes [words] are simple and clear, and yet they are often full of innuendoes and subtexts’.
Language also defines power relations, and in the colonial context, the language of the coloniser reinforced power structures and symbolised authority. Artists have often made reference to this in their works, showing the role that language plays in our relation to society and to power. Brett Murray for example, plays with words in order to critique South African politics. Kudzanai Chiurai uses posters, such as the kind used in political campaigns, , to demonstrate state violence, political unrest, and corrupted power.
Kendell Geers uses language to interrogate the art establishment and society in general, questioning our existing moral codes and suggesting new approaches. He has argued that ‘Language is a self-replicating virus that can only be destroyed by a stronger, more resilient virus. Through the mirror of the colloquial, the tongue gets twisted and forgets its place in collecting our thoughts’, and that ‘language is oppressive for it only acknowledges that which can be named. It is not the result of any particular individual’s design as much as the external manifestation of culture’.
Works by these artists and the others on this show have been chosen for their engagement with language and discourse. Sometimes this engagement is enacted on the level of form – so that words and characters become images – and at other times the engagement is an interrogation, through text, of what constitutes the image.
Stuart Bird was born in Benoni, Johannesburg, 1977, grew up in Durban, and currently lives and works in Cape Town. He received his MFA from the University of Cape Town in 2008. Prior to studying, he apprenticed as a church interior restorer in the UK, and he has been involved in various community-based initiatives. Bird has exhibited locally and internationally on various group shows and art fairs.
My work centres on issues relating to aspects of South African and global society, ranging from one-liner piss-takes of the art scene to more sombre investigations of wayward masculinity and violence. Formally, my idiom is often eclectic but falls within a neo-conceptual framework with an emphasis on craft and materiality.
2012 Promise Land , Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2008 The Grapes of Wrath , Michaelis School of Fine Art Graduation Show, Cape Town, South Africa
2004 Balls of Steel , Michaelis School of Fine Art Graduation Show, Cape Town, South Africa
2011 Vex and Siolence , a collaboration with Belinda Blignaut & Linda Stupart, YOUNGBLACKMAN, Cape Town, South Africa
2010 Two Fingers , YOUNGBLACKMAN, Cape Town, South Africa
2011 The Night Show: A Group Exhibition In Three Parts , Curated by Claire van Blerck and Tony East, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2011 _Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2011 Summer Show , Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2010 AFRICA, ASSUME ART POSITION! Curated by Yakouba Konaté, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, Italy
2010 The 5th MTN New Contemporaries Award Exhibition , Curated by Nontobeka Ntombela, KZNSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa
2010 In Other Words , Curated by Wendy McDonald, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2010 Twenty – South African Sculpture of the Last 2 Decades Curated by Andrew Lamprecht, The Nirox Foundation, Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, South Africa
2010 Own Goal , Curated by Kirsty Cockerill, AVA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2010 1910-2010 From Pierneef to Gugulective: A Fresh Look At A Century of South African Art , Curated by Riason Naidoo, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2010 The Spier Contemporary 2010 Exhibition at The Cape Town City Hall , Cape Town City Hall, Cape Town, South Africa
2009 End Conscription Campaign Exhibtion , Curated by Josie Grindrod, Spier Wine Estate, Cape Town, South Africa
2009 Sex Power Money , Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2009 Spring Art Tour , Courtesy of Whatiftheworld Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2009 Word , Curated by Kirsty Cockerill, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa
2009 Sasol New Signatures 2009 , Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, South Africa
2009 Joburg Art Fair 2009 , Courtesy of Whatiftheworld Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2009 In Black and White , Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2009 Nation State , curated by Liza Essers and Storm Janse Van Rensburg, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town & Johannesburg, South Africa
2009 Volta 5 – International Art Fair , Courtesy of Whatiftheworld Gallery, Basel, Switzerland
2008/9 Big Wednesday , curated by Julia Rosa Clark and Daniel Levi, Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2008 Come Again: New Work by Michaelis Masters Students , Substation Gallery, WITS University, Johannesburg, South Africa
2008 Joburg Art Fair , courtesy of Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary, Johannesburg, South Africa
2008 Prints and Editions , Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2008 Baring , curated by Eunice Guestyn, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa
2008 Ready Made , curated by Bettina Malcomess, Kizo Gallery, Kwa-Zulu Nata, South Africal
2008 Experimental Frontiers , curated by Okey Nwafor, VANSA Head Office, Cape Town, South Africa
2008 Forty Years of Friendship : The Friends of the National Gallery , Iziko National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2007 Finding UCT , curated by Linda Stupart and Clare Butcher, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa
2007 Ballsports , curated by Kirsty Cockerill, Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa
2007 Collection No. 6, Selected Group Exhibition , Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2007 The Second Cape Town Biennale , curated by Andrew Lamprecht, Blank Projects, Cape Town, South Africa
2007 Collection No. 4, Selected Group Exhibition , Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary, Stellenbosch, South Africa
2007 Flesh , Curated by Chris Diedericks, KKNK, Oudshorn, South Africa
2007 Come: New Work by Michaelis Masters Students , Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town & KZNSA, Durban, South Africa
2006 Of Want and Desire , Curated by Nadja Daehnke, Joao Ferreira Gallery
Portrait Exhibition (Selected Group Show), Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa
2004 Curiosity CLXXV – A Paper Cabinet , curated by Pippa Skotnes, Fritha Langerman and Gwen van Embden, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2004 Black Box , Michaelis student show at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2003 Michaelis student show at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2000 Sheet Party , group show, Durban
1999 Christmas Exhibition , NSA Gallery, Durban
2008 Awarded Masters Degree in Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town
2004 Graduated BA[FA] (Hons) from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town (Distinction in Sculpture)
University of Cape Town Collection
IZIKO South African National Gallery
Sanlam Art Collection