Whispers from the field's edge
by Sean O'Toole
It is still early days yet to expect any measured reviews on 'The Field's Edge', a group show in the US featuring works by Thembinkosi Goniwe, Teboho Mahlatsi, Colin Richards and Berni Searle. According to co-curator Rory Bester, the show has however already been offered a possible exhibition space in Holland once it closes at the USF's Contemporary Art Museum.
Bringing together a decade of contemporary lens-based art from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US, the show has received some interesting feedback in the local Florida press. "What this show is about," writes Lennie Bennett, in the St. Petersburg Times of November 10, "are the ways (both obvious and obscure) in which colonialism (both as it was practiced centuries ago and now) can affect individuals and groups (in both intimate, domestic ways and in broader political ones)."
Described as a show with a necessarily didactic bent, Bennett reports that 'The Field's Edge' "will be impenetrable and discomforting to those who do not take time with it, who do not go further than its obvious polemical readings." Engaging in such polemical readings, Bennet describes work by Colin Richards as "raw in tone and formal in presentation."
In another indirect discussion of the show, Elisa Turner, art critic with The Miami Herald, references this "intriguing show" while discussing Odili Donald Odita. Odita's contribution to 'The Field's Edge' is a series of photographs called Authentic African, which present the artist dressed as several stock archetypes -- an African prince, a businessman, a beggar and a soldier.
Turner goes on to quote Amanda Carlson, co-curator of the exhibit and a scholar of African art teaching at the University of Dayton in Ohio. ''The thing about Donald is that he doesn't think about himself working as a photographer," states Carlson. "But he is critical of the ways in which photography creates stereotypical imagery that feeds Western perceptions about Africa. In some ways you could say he's reworking Western traditions from a very African perspective and making them his own.''
Judging from the tenor of the foregoing comments, early indications are that 'The Field's
Edge' will certainly contribute towards reinvigorating the photographic discourses that include Africa, the Caribbean, and the US - an explicit and stated aim of 'The Field's Edge's' curatorial team.
'Beyond the abstract' by Elisa Turner ©The Herald
'The ironic eye' by Lennie Bennett © St. Petersburg Times
Opening: October 19
Closing: December 21
USF Contemporary Art Museum
Institute for Research in Art
College of Visual & Performing Arts
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, Florida
Tel: 813 974 4133
Fax: 813 974 5130
Hours: Monday - Friday 10 a.m - 5 p.m, and Saturday 1 - 4 p.m