Performers styled after Jane Alexander's classic Butcher Boys crept across the roof of the Lookout Centre in Khayelitsha, on the sandy outskirts of Cape Town, site of the opening ceremonies of CAPE '07, looking down as Minister of Culture Pallo Jordan addressed the large crowd of local and international visitors come to celebrate the event. Inside, the newly repainted interior showcased the work of such artists as Godfried Donkor (Ghana//UK), Mumbakwedza Mutasa (Zimbabwe) and Nicholas Hlobo (SA). Events spread across six more major venues boasted crisp presentation and artists on hand to discuss their work with visitors. Parties and other art events made for a hectic five day start up. The international critics and curators who eventually did make it here despite the confusing on-again off-again runup to the event (or at least the ones I spoke to) said that despite their initial reservations in coming, they had been impressed and invigorated by the programme, and looked forward to future events. The action continues this month.
Also in Cape Town, the Goodman Gallery Cape opened its doors in an old industrial building: a serious new player on the scene.
In Johannesburg, controversial photographer Roger Ballen receives a major survey at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Whether or not one questions his intentions in making images of what often appear to be people of limited intelligence, his arresting work has received world wide acclaim.
Next full update: Sunday, May 6
The 'Cape '07' biennale is in full swing with 45 of 'the lions of contemporary African art' on display in venues across the city, Khayelitsha and Stellenbosch. And the 'XCape' fringe event provides an abundance of visual art across the peninsula. Opening this month as part of 'XCape' are Steek' at blank projects, Zander Blom at what if the world... Julia Rosa Clark shows at João Ferreira.
In contrast to Cape Town, Gauteng is fairly quiet at the moment, the most notable openings being those of Capetonian Pamela Stretton at Gallery on the Square, veteran sculptor Peter Schütz at Goodman Gallery and a Roger Ballen survey at the JAG.
April in Durban is showing its change of season colours with an exhibition of flowers by Jo Ann Petzer at Beanbag Bohemia. Jacquelyn Thunfors' 'Birth Mother to us all - South Africa' at DUT Art Gallery picks up the theme of new life. The Durban Art Gallery hosts 'Houses of Memory', a collaboration with several Swedish organisations and artists, and memory is also foregrounded in their San art exhibition 'Memory and Magic'.
This month Robert Sloon and Ruth Sacks exhibit immaterial artworks in Eastern Europe. Robin Rhode and William Kentridge take part in an animation show in London, Guy Tillim exhibits photographs of Italy in Rome, and David Goldblatt holds a solo exhibition in Switzerland
While acknowledging the difficulty of 'getting into' Dorothee Kreutzfeldt's 'the virgins are all trimming their wicks' at João Ferreira, Bettina Malcomess argues that the show finds '... her work at an interesting point. It is a show somewhere between two places'. Tavish McIntosh reviews 'Lift Off Part I' at the Goodman Gallery Cape, a gallery she states, that is set to become one of the city's hallmark instiutions. However, despite a few notable highlights, the show lacks 'a critical spark', she argues. Fabian Saptouw visits the SANG where he encounters both the Cape '07 Video Lounge and Churchill Madikida's Standard Bank Young Artist Show, 'Like Father Like Son?'. There are interesting threads running between all the works on show, which become more apparent and contribute to their meaning as a viewer is exposed to more of the work. Lloyd Pollack reviews Kate Göttgens's 'Little Deaths' at the UCT Irma Stern Museum.
In Connor Cullinan's 'River of January', the Cape Town-based painter proves that a postmodern approach to the discipline can still bear fruit. Michael Smith discusses these works whose thin, muted paint is offset by their opulent patterning and imagery. Robert Hodgins' new show at the Goodman finds him in his typical 'impish' irreverent mood. This, however is never to the exclusion of the empathy and curiosity with which he examines the variety of specimens that make up humanity. Michael Smith reviews. He also visits Jacques Coetzer's 'Alt Pop' where he finds 'a show of one-liners'. Yet just below the enacted bravado and humour of the Pop-infused works, he argues, lies a preoccupation with the visceral reality of many pertinent issues.
Jurgen Schadeberg's 'Voices from the Land' features photographs and texts by Schadeberg, documenting the plight of farmworkers and -dwellers all across South Africa. The explanatory texts complement the images, many of which manage to capture the harsh conditions of the subjects' lives. Carol Brown sees the importance of this exhibition in terms of the recent foregrounding of land issues in South Africa.
In Berlin, Lisa Schmidt reviews 'Reality Check – Contemporary Photography from South Africa'.
Tavish McIntosh attended most of Cape '07's opening events. She also reports on a new photography gallery in Cape Town. Michael Smith brings news of George Khumalo's last production, before his death last year, taking place in Brussels. Avant Car Guard launches 'Volume 1' at David Krut Arts Resource. Former Director of the Durban Art Gallery, and now our regional editor in KZN, Carol Brown reports on South African Museums Association Conference 2007 and also extends an invitation to join the International Council of Museums, South Africa. Sasol announces the semi-finalists in their annual Wax Art Award. Parliament unveils a new emblem.
Ed Young resists showing his HARM LUX tattoo in a Swiss bar, and has a stolen artwork nicked again from a Stellenbosch gallery.
Michael Smith artbios long established artist Karel Nel.
Avant Car Guard calls for Submissions for their Africa Biennale 2008, as does The First Riebeek Kasteel Biennale. Sasol New Signatures invites entries and there's a studio to let in Observatory, Cape Town.
ArtThrob contributors take a bit of stick this week. Rat Western delivers her 'inevitable rebuttal' to Michael Smith's response last month, while Devin Purvis suggests that art criticism needs to 'find its yin'. Simone Tredoux takes up her cudgels in response to Carol Brown's review of Dale Yudelman's show at the KZNSA.
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ArtThrob is delighted to present the latest in our Editions for ArtThrob series, a vivid photomontage by Jane Alexander, one of South Africa's most important and internationally acclaimed artists. Although best known as a sculptor for iconic works like Butcher Boys(1985/6), and complex, sculpture and video installations such as African Adventure (1999 - 2002), photomontage has always been a parallel facet of Alexander's production. Just as her sculptural installations may take a variety of forms, so many of her sculptures make appearances as characters in the varied two-dimensional tableaux of her photomontages, where she creates for them new environments and proposes new relationships between them.
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