Friday, January 8, 2010

Durban exhibitions, Gavin Turk and hitting the ground running...

Decade 210x225
The first weeks of January are usually a quiet time for a Joburg-based art critic, aside from a few shows on at JAG (Johannesburg Art Gallery). It is probably totally un-PC to admit it but I am in no rush to go and review/view Remembering the Black Consciousness Movement, which is on at JAG. Resistance art had its place and function but it’s no fun to write about, besides which I am a little tired of the sanctification of artists who worked in this genre.  I usually enjoy a bit of a hiatus from art over the silly season: by the end of the year I feel saturated and start to find the art I view less and less engaging.
Nevertheless even when I am on holiday I can’t help nipping into to art galleries. Over Christmas in Durban I went to view Vaughn Sadie and Bronwyn Lace’s Unit for Measure, which I had seen in Joburg (my review is posted on this blog), which was showing at the Durban Art Gallery (DAT). It was like viewing a different exhibition altogether: it included a really stimulating and tightly curated show (that wasn’t staged in Jozi) that questioned museum politics and their installation pieces exuded quite a different ambience in this new staid setting. Sadie’s cables criss-crossed the large exhibition room, disrupting one’s line of vision, one’s movements and above all sought to redefine the gallery space on spatial and ideological levels. I also had a peek at Decade: Highlights from 10 years of collecting for the Sanlam Art Collection, which was also showing at DAT. There were several cool works in the collection such as pieces by Wim Botha, an old Tracey Rose, Leora Faber and Alan Alborough but there were lots and lots of horrors: traditional oil portraits and landscapes that one would expect to find for sale in one of those dreadful “art galleries” you get in shopping malls. It’s hard to think what informed the collecting ethos. The haphazard manner in which the artworks were arranged around the circular gallery made it was hard to believe that the exhibition was curated at all. Grim. Grim. I needed a large G & T after surveying that ghastly show.

I have hit the ground running since I started back at the office this week with an interview with Gavin Turk, who is showing The Mirror Stage at the Goodman Gallery Cape. Though I haven’t seen this exhibition I have quite a long-standing relationship with his work, which dates back to when I was living in London during the 1990s, which I think was the apogee of his career. I was really looking forward to chatting to him and did some interesting reading in preparing for my interview, which included perusing High Art Lite by Julian Stallabrass, which surveys British Art in the 1990s. While I do think that Stallabrass has oversimplified art in Britain during that decade I found it an informative read and one, which, interestingly, had me pondering on the many South African artists whose art-making ethos could easily be categorised as “High Art Lite”, which is really a euphemism for art that parades depth but is purposively vacuous: think Avant Car Guard, Brett Murray perhaps even Gimberg & Nerf.  My Turk interview will appear in the Sunday Indy next Sunday and will blog more about the encounter then.

Jozi’s art circuit starts cranking back into action next week with two openings, which are, as usual, are both on the same night – WTF!! Sean Slemon’s exhibition opens at Brodie/Stevenson and Lerato Shadi has a solo opening at Goethe on Main. Shadi (pictured in the image above) will no doubt put on a live performance so I will have to attend the latter. Shadi is one of my favourite performance artists; I like the repetitiveness of her actions, which create tension and in some instances have a narrative quality. Will review next week.

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