'Fresh: Robin Rhode'
Edited by Emma Bedford (ISBN 1-874817-28-6)
by Sophie Perryer
Last week saw the launch of the second in the series of publications documenting the 'Fresh' artists' residencies at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Fresh: Robin Rhode is just that: a spunky little book with as much style and attitude as the artist, who is seen on the front and back covers attempting to mount the Upside Down Bicycle he drew on an outside wall of the hallowed institution.
Curated by Emma Bedford, the 'Fresh' residencies allowed seven young artists - Rhode, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Tracey Rose, Berni Searle, Usha Seejarim, Moshekwa Langa and Senzeni Marasela - the chance to work at the gallery for a month each. Funding for the project was donated by Marlene Dumas through a grant made to her by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund in the Netherlands. While the residencies came to an end last week (see Tracy Murinik's report on Moshekwa Langa in News), publication of the corresponding catalogues will continue over the coming months.
The first two books hold out the promise of an eminently collectable series. Edited by Bedford and designed by Abbey Volks at Bell-Roberts, the A5 publications are beautifully laid out and delightfully compact, reflecting a sense of the significance of these short residencies in the broader context of the artists' careers. Each book has an introduction by Bedford, an essay by a writer of their choice, a concise CV and images of pieces completed during the residencies and related prior works.
In Rhode's case a succinct and very readable essay by former Market Theatre Galleries manager Stephen Hobbs traces the artist's interrogation of race and identity from student works such as Pyp and Coffee Cup through to his residency performances in 2000. These included the now notorious Leak, in which Rhode, with more than a cheeky nod to Marcel Duchamp, drew a urinal on a wall inside the gallery, pissed onto it and signed the work "R. Moet". Rhode extended his drawings to the outer walls of the gallery and surrounds - enacting his Getaway performance on the corner site of the old Slave Lodge, and being marched off to police headquarters after drawing (and sitting on) Park Bench in the Company Gardens.
Along with Street Gym, Basketball and Bicycle, performed over the same period in Observatory, Cape Town, these seminal works are captured in series of stills taken by Pam Warne, Vladimir Vidakovic and fellow artist and Grand Rooms hotel proprietor Barend de Wet. Neatly packaged in a covetable catalogue, this truly 'Fresh' outing amounts to a significant success for all involved.
Rhode's catalogue was preceded by Fresh: Senzeni Marasela, which features an essay by Rory Bester. The publications cost R30 each at the National Gallery shop or via librarian Nozuko Mjoli at email@example.com.