Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moshekwa Langa's Thresholds at The Goodman Gallery

AS IF we were in any doubt, Moshekwa Langa has once again confirmed that he is the master of ambiguity. In his characteristic fashion, he has left all the work in Thresholds untitled. It is a strategy that he has employed since the beginning of his career, when he exhibited at the now defunct Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery at the Market Theatre in 1995. Back then, his scheme to keep the meaning of his works open-ended somewhat backfired as critics and art theorists from here and abroad interpreted his works in a manner that fulfilled their own agenda to identify a progressive black South African artist. He was summarily classified as a neo-conceptualist and thus the first black contemporary South African artist - the former designation enabled the second.
Clive Kellner, former director of the Johannesburg Gallery, confidently declared after that solo exhibition: "Langa provides the sense of a future, where aspiration can be granted at the end of the proverbial yellow brick road.
"By mimicking Langa's success, albeit in his shadow, we are all offered the opportunity to be part of what is coming, as Langa epitomises everything that the establishment has been seeking - he is a young, black, conceptually based artist."

The weight of these expectations weren't lost on Langa: it set him on a trajectory engineered to either evade the question of his race and origins in relation to his work, or to critically challenge such narrow interpretative rhetoric. In this exhibition, Langa has adopted a diverse array of art-making methodologies, from scripto-visual forms associated with conceptualism, collage to documentary photography, to abstract expressionist works with cotton threads, to minimalist and semi-figurative painting styles. This is proof of his continued efforts to resist being pigeonholed. Of course, today you no longer expect artists to employ a single idiom or even medium, but these multifarious artworks do not parade as a cohesive body of work .