Thursday, March 11, 2010

Michael MacGarry at Brodie/Stevenson

On the day I entered the Brodie/Stevenson gallery to view Michael MacGarry’s exhibition I wasn’t in the mood to view art. I had terrible sinus, had been working straight for eight days and really just wanted to cower under a duvet. I was blown away. MacGarry’s work was just the injection I needed to wake me up from my mental and physical slumber. I know it is probably too early to say but I have a feeling that this will be one of the hottest exhibitions I will see this year – unless MacGarry happens to top it with his Standard Bank Young Artist exhibition at the National Arts Festival. My review, which will follow, only concentrates on two works at the exhibition but there were other artworks that could have been just as satisfying to write about. People always talk about the artist’s artist; I think MacGarry could be the art critic’s artist; for the simple fact that when an art critic views his work their fingers start itching to hit the keys on their laptop.  

My review:

THERE were high expectations for this exhibition: having scooped the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award towards the close of last year all eyes would be on Michael MacGarry’s next solo exhibition.
Awards aren’t always reliable markers of brilliance and they have been known to induce a state of creative paralysis. MacGarry certainly doesn’t appear to be a victim of the latter; this new solo exhibition presents some of his strongest work to date, demonstrating that this artist is only just getting into his stride. So often contemporary art tends to engage with abstract or metaphysical subject-matter or takes art itself as subject, cutting the man in the street out of its insular conversations, and while MacGarry’s exhibition could hardly be described as “accessible” the themes that it addresses are tangible and pertinent to our society. There is nothing ambiguous about this exhibition from its bold, straightforward title, placed in upper-case for maximum effect, THIS IS YOUR WORLD IN WHICH WE GROW, AND WE WILL GROW TO HATE YOU, to its conceptual underpinnings, which are centred on the economic policies on the continent. If one had to sum up his concerns in a single word it would be “neo-colonialism”. In other words he is addressing the manner in which Africans are being exploited by their own governments and Western and Eastern (Chinese) authorities.