On Common Ground: David Goldblatt & Peter Magubane

David Goldblatt 28 July - 25 August 2018 Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
28 July – 25 August 2018

Curated by Paul Weinberg

On Common Ground marks an historic moment as the work of two of South Africa’s most renowned photographers, David Goldblatt and Peter Magubane, are to be exhibited side-by-side for the first time.

With both photographers in their late eighties, this is a poignant moment to reflect on their respective legacies. Curator and photographer Paul Weinberg brings works by these veterans into direct conversation, using the gallery space to mirror major and lesser-known bodies of work that present Goldblatt and Magubane’s astute and distinct approaches to photography within the context of a shared pull to document apartheid South Africa and the post-1994 period of democracy.

For Magubane, this urgency to document grew from a sense of anger and personal oppression: ‘I did not want to leave the country to find another life. I was going to stay and fight with my camera as my gun. I did not want to kill anyone, though. I wanted to kill apartheid.’

Known for his ‘steely resolve [and] unrelenting gaze’ (Mail & Guardian), Magubane made his name as a photojournalist at a time when navigating South Africa as a black photographer was loaded with risk, exacting a heavy toll when he was detained and served 586 days of solitary confinement in 1969.

Whereas Magubane operated on the front-line – seeking to ‘defeat this animal apartheid’ and show the world what was happening by positioning himself amid violent protests and daring to point his lens at white South Africans, Goldblatt tended to focus his camera on quieter, yet equally poignant features of the apartheid regime.

In Goldblatt’s own words: ‘During those years my prime concern was with values – what did we value in South Africa, how did we get to those values and how did we express those values. I was very interested in the events that were taking place in the country as a citizen but, as a photographer, I’m not particularly interested, and I wasn’t then, in photographing the moment that something happens. I’m interested in the conditions that give rise to events.’

According to Goodman Gallery owner and director Liza Essers: ‘This exhibition has been five years in the making. For me, Goldblatt and Magubane, while so different in their approaches, are two of the most iconic and important photographers of our time, particularly for their documenting of apartheid. By exhibiting them together for the first time, we present a unique journey through these photographers’ archives. On Common Ground also marks one of a small handful of exhibitions for Magubane in a gallery setting. Through this exhibition, we hope to address the historical oversight that Magubane has, in his lifetime, received such limited visibility in a contemporary art context.’



David Goldblatt

David Goldblatt (1930 – 2018) was born in Randfontein, a small mining town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Through his lens, South African he chronicled the people, structures and landscapes of his country from 1948, through the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism, the apartheid regime and into the democratic era – until his death in June, 2018. In particular, Goldblatt documented the people, landscapes and industry of the Witwatersrand, the resource-rich area in which he grew up and lived, where the local economy was based chiefly on mining. In general, Goldblatt’s subject matter spanned the whole of the country geographically and politically from sweeping landscapes of the Karoo desert, to the arduous commutes of migrant black workers, forced to live in racially segregated areas. His broadest series, which spans six decades of photography, examines how South Africans have expressed their values through the structures, physical and ideological, that they have built.

In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop, a training institution in Johannesburg, for aspiring photographers. In 1998 he was the first South African to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2001, a retrospective of his work, David Goldblatt Fifty-One Years began a tour of galleries and museums. He was one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. He has held solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and the New Museum, both in New York. His work was included in the exhibition ILLUMInations at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, and has featured on shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Barbican Centre in London. In 2017, Goldblatt installed a series of portraits from his photographic essay Ex-Offenders in former prisons in Birmingham and Manchester. The portraits depict men and women, from South African and the UK, at the scene of their crimes, with accompanying texts that relate the subjects’ stories in their words. In the last year of his life, two major retrospectives were opened at Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The Goldblatt Archive is held by Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Goldblatt is the recipient of the 2006 Hasselblad award, the 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, the 2013 ICP Infinity Award and in 2016, he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.