Goodman Gallery Cape Town
28 July – 10 September 2016
Goodman Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of new work by David Koloane (b.1938), one of South Africa’s most renowned Expressionist painters.
Since the 1950s the artist has confronted the urban world in figural renderings and bold colors to develop a powerful mode of social criticism. Koloane’s central subject, black life in the city of Johannesburg, is depicted in swirling, swaying, and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes. These techniques are meant to convey the turgid emotional state of the artist reacting to the anxieties and yearnings of life in one of Africa’s largest cities.
His well-known representations of Johannesburg include hybrid individuals (‘mongrels’, ‘hustlers’) and the results of urbanization (thick commuters, African immigrants, feral dogs). Brightly hued images, such as, Red Beret, are an energetic game of color and form, Saxophone a soothing streak of pinky-grey and The Hustlers exist in a phantom grey. Working in layers of ideas and media, Koloane comments on the emotional resonances of the city in representations that range from the vibrant and hopeful to the grey and melancholic and back again.
At the center of the exhibition is a new stop-motion animated video, created from a series of detailed pencil drawings. The Takeover, expressed in a palette of achromatic greys, is a fable about the value of community and a cautionary tale about the company one keeps. Set in a Johannesburg township, a pack of aggressive feral dogs take over an abandoned school. One night, a woman attends a vigil at a neighbor’s house and while walking home after the meeting the dogs attack and kill her. Spurred by her death the community comes together, and drive the dogs out of town. A very short fable, featuring animals with human thoughts and deeds, The Takeover is a metaphor about the dangers of free-living and the redemptive power of community.
Koloane’s drawings and paintings recall the forcefully expressionist art of Gerard Sekoto (1913–1993), and the abstract experiments of Louis Maqhubela (1939–2010) and Sydney Khumalo (1935–1988). He exemplifies the sensibilities and techniques of expressionist art in South Africa today.
David Koloane (1938 – 2019) was born in Alexandra, Johannesburg, South Africa. Koloane spent his career making the world a more hospitable place for black artists during and after apartheid. Koloane achieved this through his pioneering work as an artist, writer, curator, teacher and mentor to young and established artists at a time when such vocations were restricted to white people in South Africa. A large part of this effort involved the initiatives Koloane helped establish, from the first Black Art Gallery in 1977, the Thupelo experimental workshop in 1985 and the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in 1991, where he served as director for many years. Koloane also tutored at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) in 1979 and became the head of the fine art section and gallery from 1985 to 1990.
Through his expressive, evocative and poetic artwork, Koloane interrogated the socio-political and existential human condition, using Johannesburg as his primary subject matter. Koloane’s representations of Johannesburg are populated with images of cityscapes, townships, street life, jazz musicians, traffic jams, migration, refugees, dogs, and birds among others. Imaginatively treated, through the medium of painting, drawing, assemblage, printmaking and mixed media, Koloane’s scenes are a blend of exuberant and sombre, discernible and opaque pictorial narratives.
Koloane’s work has been widely exhibited locally and internationally. In 1999 he was part of the group exhibition Liberated Voices at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. In 2013, Koloane’s work was shown on the South African pavilion at the 55th la Biennale di Venezia and on the group exhibition My Joburg at La Maison Rouge in Paris. In 1998, the government of the Netherlands honoured Koloane with the Prince Claus Fund Award for his contributions to South African art. Koloane was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate twice, once from Wits University in 2012, and again from Rhodes University in 2015.
Earlier this year Koloane was the subject of a travelling career survey exhibition, A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane, which opened at IZIKO SANG in June and will travel to Standard Bank Gallery and Wits Art Museum in October.