Sunday morning in Newtown. We joined the lovely Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences, the original city walking tour company for a graffiti walk. Jo’s in the process of writing her M.A. thesis focusing on the heritage value of graffiti in Newtown. Hopefully it will end up as a book. She has an anthropological take likening it to early human’s need for self-expression once realised in rock art.
You have just 10 more days to see this exhibition at Gallery MOMO. It’s definitely worth making time for … Beira’s Grande Hotel sits like a beached battleship, its mottled and worn concrete façade revealing the building’s age and its abandonment by its former owners. With his photographs Mark Lewis tells many stories – of grand ambition to design a space for holidaymakers of colonial-era Mozambique, and of a local community that has survived war and conflict to occupy the shell of some property developer’s dreams. The images, now being exhibited at Johannesburg’s Gallery MOMO, whisper of the building’s life as it once was, and as it might have been while they portray the daily existence of more than 3000 people who call the Grande Hotel a home. Continue reading
Anthea Pokroy collects gingers. When I hear that I imagine her standing up at a support meeting, guiltily surveying the room, and then confessing. I also am mildly reassured. Though not a collector, I am a ginger, and find myself drawn to other redheads, unusually interested in characters like Homeland’s Damian Lewis, Desperate Housewives “Bree Van de Kamp”, News International’s Rebekah Brooks and now in Pokroy.
It appears that once you start, there is no holding back. In just over two years Pokroy collected more than 500 gingers, photographing each one of them. Her solo exhibition “I collect gingers” opened in January, a series of portraits presented in 10 “hair groups” – a spectrum from strawberry blond to dark auburn cross-referenced against skin and eye colour. The groups constitute a racial classification invented by the artist, with sub-classifications. “It’s human nature to create hierarchies, but I haven’t suggested who is the low – I wanted the viewer to impose that,” says Pokroy. Continue reading
This one is not to be missed. I spotted the poster about two weeks ago in the city, and it made me curious. The International Exhibition of Black Music is on at Museum Africa – part of the France South Africa Seasons 2012/13 that has brought myriad diverse cultural events to the city over the past few weeks, including Molière’s “L’Avare” (The Miser) at the Market Theatre, Reacting to Chemistry exhibition at Sci-Bono, and French Connections – an exhibition of French works in the Johannesburg Art Gallery collection.
After a two month hiatus spent in my study (and a number of free WIFI-enabled coffee shops across the city including my current favourite Warm & Glad, on 357 Jan Smuts Avenue) finishing my M.A. dissertation, I have been released to feast on the city. Oh how I have missed that. On Saturday we took a walk with Bongani Mathebula from MainStreetWalks to view the murals that form part of the IARTJOBURG project, a brilliant initiative by Ricky Lee Gordon of /and people (love their work), adidas Originals and Plascon.
Here’s the story…
If you go down to Doornfontein today you are in for a big surprise. Look up along Sivewright Avenue as you travel in the direction of Yeoville and there hanging on the wall of an otherwise ordinary commercial face brick block is an elephant, a rhinoceros, a giraffe and three other wild creatures. They appear to be lying across the reinforced concrete beams, their limbs hang limply, and their eyes are closed. Asleep, or extinct, the artist has left it up to you to decide.
Yesterday the route to Goodman Gallery along Jan Smuts Avenue appears to have been lovebombed. In the same spot where a week ago a spear became a smear that caused such great fear some shweshwe prints, a few chunky knits, lots of stitches and a flurry of hearts festooned the trees and street poles leading to the Gallery between Denbigh and Chester Road along Jan Smuts Avenue. If you drive past, just smile. I did.
Artist Hermann Niebuhr’s Johannesburg is many cities. All of them familiar, but each distinctive in its difference.
At his Fordsburg studio, the more than 30 versions hang in one room, a dizzying display of colour and light. There are cityscapes, and the traces of cityscapes, geometric lines that compose Johannesburg’s most famous landmarks and that, on closer inspection, fracture and break apart. In each the sky and city are entangled, the light washing over the buildings warming the city or darkening it, making it appear in turns welcoming, and then coldly foreboding, making it appear real.
For Johannesburg is in some ways an unknowable city, a city of concealment, and of surprises, where hipsters rub shoulders with church prophets and you can find a sheep’s head as easily as you can a pair of Italian brogues. Surfaces are only to be taken for the whole at your own peril.
It’s taken 11 days but I am officially ready to start 2012. It’s a Joburg thing – from December to January the city’s heartbeat slows, in preparation for the crazy pace that will follow for the next 11 months. (If we are going to end the year by throwing fridges out of high-rises some contemplative time will be necessary)
This year will be no different (talking pace here). I have been hearing some interesting plans for the city, talk of a Museum of African Design, whispers about another of African Art (housing an extensive private collection) and the one I am more familiar with, the Wits Art Museum. WAM is a 10-year work in progress that once completed will not only add another notch to Braamfontein’s visitor belt it will transform the art landscape of the city.
There was something disturbing about listening to Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon at the FNB Joburg Art Fair this weekend. Dercon’s talk was titled “Audiences: How much do we really care?”. It’s a good question, and one that requires an urgent response in a world where every medium, be it visual arts or newspapers and everything in between is being challenged by an economy ruled by a surplus of information and a deficit of attention.
It’s the Art Fair. It’s the Art Fair. I don’t usually blog pre- an event, preferring to experience it for myself before I tell anyone it’s worth doing. But the FNB Joburg Art Fair is a sure thing. Opening night (by invitation only) happens tomorrow and then from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon there’s art and more art, framed and named, performances, appearances, talks of all sorts and lots of of other things in between.