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In his first solo exhibition in his home city since 2003, Kendell Geers will present Songs of Innocence and of Experience at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg. Primarily comprising sculpture, Geers’ new body of work contemplates his birthplace and its history in relation to contemporary experience.
“For too long now", says Geers, "my work has been considered ‘suspect’ by the South African audience and I have been haunted by the ‘enfant terrible’ reputation I earned myself two decades ago. I wonder when will South Africa allow me the freedom to grow up with elegance ? Songs of Innocence and of Experience will be my first exhibition in Johannesburg in almost a decade. I selected the title as homage to William Blake as well as in protest against misguided misinterpretations of my working and my thinking processes. Songs of Innocence and of Experience heralds a return to the ‘Country of my Skull’, a return to my roots, a meditation upon what it means to be a white African and a Working Class Afrikaans South African. The cultural logic of my identity, the history and politics of my cultural inheritance are woven together with experience and with delightful innocence into an exhibition that places sculpture at its core.”
Geers returns to his signature use of Razormesh as an exploration of local legacy. “Razormesh and security fencing mark our suburban lives in South Africa, protecting us from hidden nameless enemies banging at our gates. We live in compounds imprisoned by our desire to be free and safe within a space etched out from the environment by razorblades and electric fences. The world patent for Razormesh remains in the hands of a South African corporation and it is our unique product, a cultural weapon exported to every single political flash point on the planet, an economic success story that cut its teeth in our dark history.
“Without irony and in the absence of violent scourge of parody and cynicism, I have created a body of work that is a meditation upon my personal cultural heritage, my roots and in reflection upon my community, a modern unspoken heritage, a cultural icon that we are blinded to. Songs of Innocence and of Experience is a mature exhibition of sculptures, an exhibition built upon the painful foundations of experience without losing my innocence.”
Moreover, in defence of fellow artist Brett Murray and in defence of the right of every artist to speak with a sharp tongue in your cheek, Kendell Geers will present a homage to “The Spear” bringing his own unique vision on the controversial subject of the penis.
South African-born, Belgian artist Kendell Geers changed his date of birth to May 1968 in order to give birth to himself as a work of art. Describing himself as an ‘AniMystikAKtivist’, Geers takes a syncretic approach to art that weaves together diverse Afro-European traditions, including animism, alchemy, mysticism, ritual and a socio-political activism laced with black humour, irony and cultural contradiction.
Geers’s work has been shown in numerous international group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (2007) and Documenta (2002). Major solo shows include Heart of Darkness at Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town (1993), Third World Disorder at Goodman Gallery Cape Town (2010) and more recently Songs of Innocence and of Experience at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg (2012). His exhibition Irrespektiv travelled to Newcastle, Ghent, Salamanca and Lyon between 2007 and 2009. Geers was included on Art Unlimited at Art 42 Basel in 2011. Work by Geers was included on Manifesta 9 in Genk, Limburg, Belgium and a major survey show of his work was exhibited at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany in 2013. Earlier this year Geers held a solo exhibition, The Second Coming (Do What Thou Wilt), at Rua Red in Dublin.