Posts Tagged ‘Billy Monk The Catacombs

24
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa’ at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 29th June 2014

Exhibition artists

Public Intimacy presents

  • Photography by Ian Berry, Ernest Cole, David Goldblatt, Terry Kurgan, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Billy Monk, Zanele Muholi, Lindeka Qampi, Jo Ractliffe, and Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
  • Video works by William Kentridge, Donna Kukama, Anthea Moys, and Berni Searle
  • Painting and sculpture by Nicholas Hlobo and Penny Siopis
  • Puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company
  • Publications, prints, graphic works, and public interventions by Chimurenga, ijusi (Garth Walker), Anton Kannemeyer, and Cameron Platter
  • Performances by Athi-Patra Ruga, Kemang Wa Lehulere, and Sello Pesa and Vaughn Sadie with Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre

 

Continuing my fascination with South African art and photography, here is another exhilarating collection of work from an exhibition jointly arranged between SFMOMA and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. This art has so much joy, life, movement and “colour”. I particularly like The Future White Women of Azania series by Athi-Patra Ruga, who presented his work at the 55th Venice Biennale in the African pavilion. Images of his incredible tapestries can be found on the Whatiftheworld website, and photographs of his installation at the WhatIfTheWorld Gallery can be found on the Empty Kingdom website. Thank god not another rehashed colonial image, even though he is working with the tropes of myth and the history of Africa as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for allowing me to publish the installation photographs in the posting. Most of the other photographs were gathered from the internet. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Disrupting expected images of South Africa, the 25 contemporary artists and collectives featured in Public Intimacy eloquently explore the poetics and politics of the everyday. This collaboration with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents pictures from SFMOMA’s collection of South African photography alongside works in a broad range of media, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications – most made in the last five years, and many on view for the first time on the West Coast. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Public Intimacy reveals the nuances of human interaction in a country still undergoing significant change, vividly showing public life there in a more complex light.”

Text from the SFMOMA website

 

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Leading in Song, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Leading in Song, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Hands in Worship, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Hands in Worship, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Supplication, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Supplication, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Ian Berry. 'Guests at a 'moffie'drag party' Cape Town, South Africa, 1960

 

Ian Berry
Guests at a ‘moffie’drag party
Cape Town, South Africa, 1960
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 30 September 1967' 1967, printed 2011

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 30 September 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
10 1/16 x 14 15/16 in. (25.56 x 37.94 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 5 February 1968' 1968, printed 2011

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 5 February 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nomonde Mbusi, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi
Nomonde Mbusi, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
From the Faces and Phases series
Gelatin silver print
23 13/16 in. x 34 1/16 in. (60.5 cm x 86.5 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi, born 1972

Muholi’s work addresses the reality of what it is to be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) in South Africa. She identifies herself as a visual activist, dealing with issues of violation, violence and prejudice that she and her community face, despite South Africa’s progressive constitution.

In Faces and Phases, she sets out to give visibility to black lesbians and to celebrate the distinctiveness of individuals through the traditional genre of portraiture. The portraits are taken outdoors with a hand-held camera to retain spontaneity and often shown in a grid to highlight difference and diversity. In the series Beulahs, she shows young gay men, wearing Zulu beads and other accessories usually worn by women, who invert normative gender codes in both costume and pose. At the same time her photographs evoke tourist postcards and recycled stereotypes of Africans and recall traditional anthropological and ethnographic iconography.

Faces and Phases, is a group of black and white portraits that I have been working on from 2006 until now – it has become a lifetime project. The project is about me, the community that I’m part of. I was born in the township: I grew up in that space. Most of us grew up in a household where heterosexuality was the norm. When you grow up, you think that the only thing that you have to become as a maturing girl or woman is to be with a man; you have to have children, and also you need to have lobola or “bride price” paid for you. For young men, the expectation for them is to be with women and have wives and procreate: that’s the kind of space which most of us come from. We are seen as something else by society – we are seen as deviants. We’re not going to be here forever, and I wanted to make sure that we leave a history that is tangible to people who come after us.’

Zanele Muholi, interviewed by Tamar Garb, South Africa, 2010.
Text from the V & A website

 

David Goldblatt. 'Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg' 1975

 

David Goldblatt
Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg
1975
Pigment inkjet print
23 5/8 in. x 29 1/2 in. (60 cm x 75 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© David Goldblatt.

 

 

Jointly organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa brings together 25 artists and collectives who disrupt expected images of a country known through its apartheid history. The exhibition features an arc of artists who look to the intimate encounters of daily life to express the poetics and politics of the “ordinary act,” with work primarily from the last five years as well as photographic works that figure as historical precedents. On view at YBCA February 21 through June 29, 2014, Public Intimacy presents more than 200 works in a wide range of mediums, many of them making U.S. or West Coast debuts.

The exhibition joins SFMOMA’s important and growing collection of South African photography with YBCA’s multidisciplinary purview and continued exploration of the Global South. Significant documentary photography is paired with new photographs and work in other mediums, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications, to reveal the multifaceted nuances of everyday life in a country still undergoing significant change. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Public Intimacy looks at the way artists imagine present and future possibilities in South Africa. A new orientation emerges through close-up views of street interactions, portraiture, fashion and costume, unfamiliar public actions, and human imprints on the landscape.

The exhibition’s three curators – Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts at YBCA; Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs at SFMOMA; and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA – developed the show after visits to South Africa, where they met with artists, curators, and critics. The exhibition – and a companion publication to be published in fall 2014 – grew out of this research.

“Although South Africa’s political history remains vital to these artists and is important for understanding their work, Public Intimacy offers a more subtle view of the country through personal moments,” said Hertz. “It goes against expectations in order to reveal the smaller gestures and illuminate how social context has affected artists and how they work.”

“The familiar image of contemporary South Africa as a place of turmoil is, of course, not the whole story,” added Willsdon. “The art in this exhibition restages how those violent incidents fit in the broader realm of human interactions – a way of showing public life there in a more complex light.”

“Another central aspect of the exhibition is live performance,” said Smigiel. “Three major live works will unfold both in and outside the gallery context, offering a way to situate and reframe San Francisco through the lens of what artists are producing in South Africa.”

Public Intimacy is part of SFMOMA’s collaborative museum exhibitions and extensive off-site programming taking place while its building is temporarily closed for expansion construction through early 2016. As neighbors across Third Street in San Francisco, YBCA and SFMOMA have partnered in the past on various performance and exhibition projects, but Public Intimacy represents the deepest collaboration of shared interests to date between the two institutions. It also brings together SFMOMA’s approach to curating live art and YBCA’s multidisciplinary interest in exhibitions, social practice, and performances.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

 

Installation views of the exhibition Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco with, in the last photo, Nicholas Hlobo, Umphanda ongazaliyo (installation view), 2008; rubber, ribbon, zips, steel, wood, plaster; ICA Boston; © Nicholas Hlobo; photo: John Kennar.

 

 

Exhibition highlights

While the exhibition explores new approaches to daily life in post-apartheid South Africa, it also makes visible the continued commitment of artists to activism and contemporary politics. Beginning with photographs from the late 1950s and after, the exhibition includes vital moments in the country’s documentary photography – from Ian Berry’s inside look at an underground drag ball to Billy Monk’s raucous nightclub photos – each capturing a moment of celebration within different social strata of South African society. Ernest Cole’s photographs of miners’ hostels and bars and Santu Mofokeng’s stirring photographs of mobile churches on commuter trains reveal everyday moments both tender and harsh.

David Goldblatt’s photographs depict the human landscape in apartheid and after, providing the genesis of the idea of “public intimacy.” Over decades of photographs in urban, suburban, and rural locations, Goldblatt has chronicled the changing nature of interpersonal engagement in South Africa. At the same time, they provide a historical backdrop and visual precedent for other artists in the exhibition, including Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni.

Muholi has won several awards for her powerful photographic portraits as well as her activism on behalf of black lesbians in South Africa. Although best known for her photographs – in particular her Faces and Phases series – Muholi continuously experiments with an expanded practice including documentary film, beadwork, text, and her social-action organization Inkanyiso, which gives visibility to conditions facing lesbians of color in her country. “Sexual politics has been looked at less than racial politics in South Africa, but in many ways, the two have always been intertwined,” said Willsdon.

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse bring another perspective to the upheavals of life in the city of Johannesburg with works from their Ponte City (2008-10) series, comprised of photographs, video, and a publication offering various views of this centrally located and iconic 54-story building. The works illustrate the struggles facing many native and immigrant South Africans in the years following the dissolution of apartheid, including stalled economic growth and social opportunities.

In contrast to the daily realities pictured in photographic works in the exhibition, Athi-Patra Ruga’s ongoing performance series The Future White Women of Azania (2010-present) features fantastical characters – usually played by the artist – whose upper bodies sprout colorful balloons while their lower bodies pose or process in stockings and high heels. Ruga’s Azania is a changing utopia, and Smigiel notes the shift: “The balloons are filled with liquid, and as the figure moves through the streets, they start popping, so the character dissolves and reveals a performer, and the liquid spills out and into a rather sloppy line drawing.” A new iteration of the series, The Elder of Azania, will premiere in the YBCA Forum during the exhibition’s opening weekend.

Chimurenga, an editorial collective working at the intersection of pan-African culture, art, and politics produces publications, events, and installations. Founded in 2002 by Ntone Edjabe, the collective has created the Chimurenga Library, an online archiving project that profiles independent pan-African paper periodicals from around the world. Expanding upon this concept, their presence in Public Intimacy will have two elements: a text and media resource space in YBCA’s galleries and an intervention at the San Francisco Public Library main branch that will explore the history of pan-African culture in the Bay Area, scheduled to open in late May.

Providing one of the most personally vulnerable moments in the exhibition, Penny Siopis’s series of 90 small paintings on enamel, Shame (2002), provokes a visceral reaction. With red paint reminiscent of blood and bruises, Siopis mixes color and text in an attempt to convey emotion rather than narrative. While she is interested in the guilt and embarrassment most frequently associated with shame, she also looks at the possibility for empathy that emerges from traumatic experiences.

In all of these works, explains Hertz, “We are looking at how art and activism align, but we’re also interested in how politics is embedded in less obviously political practices, such as Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographs of mining workers’ hostels, Penny Siopis’s powerful painting series about human vulnerability, or Nicholas Hlobo’s large-scale, organically shaped sculptures made primarily of rubber.”

Text from the SFMOMA website

 

Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Couple Bheki and Sipho' 2009

 

Sabelo Mlangeni
Couple Bheki and Sipho
2009
From the series Country Girls
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30 cm
Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Sabelo Mlangeni

 

 

Figures & Fictions: Sabelo Mlangeni from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

 

Anton Kannemeyer. 'D is for dancing ministers' 2006

 

Anton Kannemeyer
D is for dancing ministers
2006
From the series Alphabet of Democracy
Lithograph on Chine Collé
22 1/16 x 24 in. (56 x 61 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Anton Kannemeyer

 

Terry Kurgan. 'Hotel Yeoville' 2012

 

Terry Kurgan
Hotel Yeoville
2012
Digital print on bamboo hahnemulle paper
Courtesy the artist
© Terry Kurgan

 

Penny Siopis. 'Untitled' from the series 'Shame' 2002

 

Penny Siopis
Untitled from the series Shame
2002
Paint on enamel
© Penny Siopis

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Future White Women of Azania' 2012

 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Future White Women of Azania
2012
Performed as part of Performa Obscura in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky
Commissioned for the exhibition Making Way, Grahamstown, South Africa
Photo: Ruth Simbao, courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Future White Women of Azania' 2012

 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Future White Women of Azania
2012
Performed as part of Performa Obscura in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky
Commissioned for the exhibition Making Way, Grahamstown, South Africa
Photo: Ruth Simbao, courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Night of the Long Knives I' 2013



 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Night of the Long Knives I
2013


Archival inkjet Print on Photorag Baryta
202 x 157 cm

 

“The Future White Woman of Azania is an ongoing series of performances first conceived in 2010 and evolving to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous body. In the enactment of the site-specific work commissioned for the 55th Venice Biennale, the performance takes the form of an absurdist funerary procession. The participants are the ABODADE – the sisterhood order of Azania and the central protagonist – The Future White Woman.

“Azania, as a geographic location, is first described in 1stCentury Greek records of navigation and trade, The Peryplus of the Erythrean Sea and is thought to refer to a portion of the East and Southern African coast. The word Azania itself is thought to have been derived from an Arabic word referring to the ‘dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa.’

Azania is then eulogised in the black consciousness movement as a pre-colonial utopian black homeland – this Promised Land, referenced in struggle songs, political sermons and African Nationalist speeches. In Cold War pop culture, Marvel Comics used Azania as a fictional backdrop to a Liberation story that bares a close resemblance to the situation that was Apartheid in Old South Africa… so it is at once a mythical and faintly factual place/state that this performance unfolds… Who are the Azanians for what it’s worth? It is in this liminal state that the performance unfolds…”

Seeking to radically reimage the potential of Azania and its inhabitants, the performance questions the mythical place that we mourn for and asks who its future inhabitants may be. Using the “Nation-Finding language of pomp and procession,” Ruga proposes a bold and iconoclastic break with the past Utopian promise of the elders and instead presents us with a new potential and hybridity.”

Text from the Athi-Patra Ruga blog

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'Uzuko' 2013


 

Athi-Patra Ruga
Uzuko
2013
Wool, thread and artificial flowers on tapestry canvas
200 x 180 cm

 

 

“Athi-Patra Ruga is one of a handful of artists, working in South Africa today, who has adopted the tropes of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga has always worked with creating alternative identities that sublimate marginalized experience into something strangely identifiable.

In The Future White Women of Azania he is turning his attention to an idea intimately linked to the apartheid era’s fiction of Azania – a Southern African decolonialised arcadia. It is a myth that perhaps seems almost less attainable now than when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) appropriated the name in 1965 as the signifier of an ideal future South Africa – then at least was a time to dream more optimistically largely because the idea seemed so infinitely remote.

But Ruga, in his imaginings of Azania, has stuck closer to the original myth, situating it in Eastern Africa as the Roman, Pliny the Elder, did in the first written record of the name. Here Ruga in his map The Lands of Azania (2014-2094) has created lands suggestive of sin, of decadence and current politics. Countries named Palestine, Sodom, Kuntistan, Zwartheid and Nunubia are lands that reference pre-colonial, colonial and biblical regions with all their negative and politically disquieting associations. However, in what seems like something of a response to the ‘politically’ embroidered maps of the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti, Ruga infers that the politicization of words are in a sense prior to the constructed ideology of the nation state.

What is more Azania is a region of tropical chromatic colours, which is populated with characters whose identities are in a state of transformation. At the centre of the panoply of these figures stands The Future White Woman whose racial metamorphosis, amongst a cocoon of multi-coloured balloons, suggests something disturbing, something that questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation. And it is here that the veracity of the myth of a future arcadia is being disputed if not entirely rejected.

To be sure, unlike Barthes’ suggestion in his essay ‘Myth Today’, Ruga is not creating myth in an act that depoliticizes, simplifying form in order to perpetuate the idea of an erroneous future ‘good society’. Instead, placing himself in amongst the characters in a lavish self portrait Ruga imagines himself into the space of the clown or jester (much like the Rococo painter Watteau did in his painting ‘Giles’), into the space of interpreter as well as a cultural product of the forces outside of his own control.

Ruga’s Azania is a world of confusing transformations whose references are Rococo and its more modern derivative Pop. But whatever future this myth is foreshadowing, with its wealth, its tropical backdrop, its complicated and confusing identities, it is not a place of peaceful harmony – or at least not one that is easily recognizable. As Ruga adumbrated at a recent studio visit, his generation’s artistic approach of creating myths or alternative realities is in some ways an attempt to situate the traumas of the last 200 years in a place of detachment. That is to say at a farsighted distance where their wounds can be contemplated outside of the usual personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.”

Statement from WHATIFTHEWORLD.com on the Empty Kingdom website

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City from Yeoville Ridge' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City from Yeoville Ridge
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Cleaning the Core, Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Cleaning the Core, Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
49 7/16 x 59 1/16 in. (125.5 x 150 cm)
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Untitled I, Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Untitled I, Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Originally intended as a nuclear point in the upwardly mobile social cartography of Johannesburg’s Hillbrow, the 173 meter-high cylindrical apartment building Ponte City became an urban legend, and an essential part of visual renderings of the city. It was the conflicted spectacle of Ponte City that drew South African photographer, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, a British artist, to look more closely in rather than at the tower.

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Lift Portrait 2, Ponte City, Johannesburg (0328)' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Lift Portrait 2, Ponte City, Johannesburg (0328)
2008
C-print mounted on Dibond
124 cm x 151.5 cm

 

 

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Opening hours:
Sunday and Wednesday noon – 6.00 pm
Thursday -€“ Saturday noon – 8.00 pm
Free First Tuesday of the month noon – 8.00 pm

SFMOMA website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

20
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 1st December 2012 – 5th March 2013

 

“We were insiders, all three of us: Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, and me. We each photographed from the inside what we most intimately knew.

Cole was born Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole in 1940, to a working-class Black family in a Black township outside the city of Pretoria. Growing into that society he came to know, with a depth of understanding that only belonging could bring, both its richness and the hardship and humiliation imposed by apartheid. As a boy he photographed people in the township for a shilling a time. By the age of eighteen he had begun to work as a photojournalist, and within a few years he was deeply committed to his essay on what it meant to be Black under apartheid. At age twenty-six, to escape the Security Police and to publish his seminal book, House of Bondage, he went into bitter and destructive exile. Cancer killed him in 1990. Apartheid destroyed him.

Billy Monk’s photographs have the frank and warm intimacy that comes to someone who was completely trusted by his subjects. They are of a tiny splinter of another way of being: a place in apartheid South Africa of neither Black nor White but of somewhere not quite in between. Not quite, because while Blacks would not have gained participatory entrance to the Catacombs nightclub, people “of colour” did, and mixed there freely with Whites. It was a question of bending the law – within limits. Here you were judged not by your conformity with the pathological rigidities of Calvinism gone mad, but by your immersion in the conviviality of brandy and Coke. We will never know what might have become of the eye of Billy Monk, for in 1982 he died at age forty-five in a brawl while on his way to the first exhibition of his work. He has left us what the photographer Paul Graham might describe as a sliver of possibility.

My series In Boksburg tells of what it meant to be White in a middle-class South African community during the years of apartheid. It was a place of quiet respectability such as might be found in innumerable towns around the world. Except that Blacks were not of it. They were the largest component of its population; they served it, traded with it, received charity from it, and were ruled, rewarded, and punished by its precepts. Some, on occasion, were its privileged guests. But all who went there did so by permit or invitation, never by right. White and Black: locked into a system of manic control and profound immorality. Simply to draw breath was to be complicit. Heroism or emigration seemed to offer the only escape.

That’s how it was and is no longer.”

.
David Goldblatt

 

 

It is the work of Billy Monk that is most impressive in this posting. Photographed in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s, Monk’s photographs of the racially mixed clientele portray them in extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. While his protagonists take centre stage within his photographs there is a wonderful spatial openness to Monk’s 35mm flash images photographed with a slightly wide angle 35mm lens. Monk does not fill the pictorial frame; he allows his images to breathe. Witness (and that is what he did) the moment of stasis before kiss of The Catacombs, 30 September 1967 (below), the intensity of the man’s passionate embrace, gaze, the sublime distance between bottle at right and bottle top, the image replete with blank, contextless wall behind. There is passion and hilarity here coupled with a feeling of infinite sadness – the squashed faces of The Catacombs, 31 July 1967, the convivial happiness of the couple in The Catacombs, 5 February 1968 (he with his stained trouser leg) counterbalanced by the desolate looking man behind them and the mute expression on the trapped go-go dancers face in The Balalaika, December 1969 as the man reaches his hand through the bars towards her.

Observe the masterpiece that is The Catacombs, 21 November 1967 (below). The cheap Formica bench top and empty Coca-Cola bottle with straw, a half smoked cigarette pointing out of the photograph at bottom right. If the cigarette wasn’t there the image would fall away in that corner: it HAS to be there, an Monk’s eye knew it. The women, standing, singing? holding two bottles of liquor in her out thrust arms, her eyes and hair mimicking the patterns of the painted Medusa behind her. And the young man dressed in jacket and time, one arm outstretched and resting on the bench, the other resting curled up next to his mouth and cheek. It’s his look that gets you – she, declamatory; he, lost in melancholic reverie, with the troubles of the world on his shoulders totally oblivious to her performance. The emotional distance between the two, as the distance between his resting hand and the empty Coke bottle, is enormous, insurmountable. Such a profound and troubling image of a society in hedonistic denial. His look is the look of loneliness, anguish and despair.

These photographs that are the eye of Billy Monk, these slivers of possibility, should not be regarded as a “what if he had lived” sliver, but the silver possibility of what he did see when he was alive. They are a celebration of his informed eye and a recognition of his undoubted talent. I am moved by their pathos and humanity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Read the text sections of the exhibition (2.8Mb pdf)

 

 

Ernest Cole. 'A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 cm x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man's person and belongings' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man’s person and belongings
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Untitled [White Washroom]' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Untitled [White Washroom]
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

 

“From December 1, 2012, through March 5, 2013, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, featuring work by three photographers that illuminates a rich and diverse photographic tradition as well as a vital, difficult, and contested period in the history of South Africa. The exhibition continues the museum’s longstanding commitment to documentary photography, showcasing the greatest breadth of each artist’s work ever shown in San Francisco, and in the U.S. for Cole and Monk. Organized by Sandra S. Phillips, SFMOMA’s senior curator of photography, South Africa in Apartheid and After brings together more than 120 photographs.

“South Africa is proving to be a very fertile and active area for contemporary photography, to which David Goldblatt’s contributions and longstanding concerns have contributed significantly,” notes Phillips. “With this show we hope to show some of this rich and varied activity.”

The internationally recognized artist David Goldblatt (b. 1930) has created an immense and powerful body of work depicting his native South Africa for a half century. The exhibition features photographs from Goldblatt’s early project In Boksburg (1982), which portrays a suburban white community near Johannesburg shaped by what the artist calls “white dreams and white proprieties.” Losing its distinctiveness in the accelerated growth of development, Boksburg could almost be mistaken for American suburbia in Goldblatt’s pictures, made in 1979 and 1980. In them, the quaintness of small-town life in South Africa is startlingly set against the increasing entrenchment of racial inequality in the country under apartheid.

Offering multiple perspectives on South Africa during this period, the work of Ernest Cole and Billy Monk are presented in the exhibition at Goldblatt’s suggestion. Adding an important dimension to Goldblatt’s Boksburg project is the work of Cole (1940-1990), a black South African photographer who documented the other side of the racial divide until he was forced to leave his country in 1966. The following year, his project was published in the United States as the book, House of Bondage, and immediately banned in South Africa; this major critique of apartheid has hardly been seen in his own country. In 2006, Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award and became aware of Cole’s original, uncropped prints. Goldblatt was instrumental in helping bring Cole’s work to international prominence, assisting in organizing a retrospective tour of the work, and championing an accompanying book project, Ernest Cole Photographer (2010). Selected works from the publication are included in the SFMOMA exhibition, featuring pictures that are eloquent, tragic, and deeply humane without a trace of sensationalism. Billy Monk (1937-1982) was a gregarious self-taught photographer who worked as a bouncer in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s. His work, recovered and reprinted posthumously by South African photographer Jac de Villiers, exists as a raw and beautiful record of the port city’s racially mixed population. These three groups of pictures are complemented by a selection of Goldblatt’s post-apartheid photographs, including large color triptychs of beautiful and sober yet hopeful records of an imperfect, still evolving democracy.

The work of all three photographers are also featured in the ongoing exhibition Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at the International Center of Photography, New York (September 14, 2012-January 6, 2013), and Goldblatt and Cole are included in Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at Barbican Art Gallery, London (September 13, 2012-January 13, 2013).

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 30 September 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 30 September 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
10 1/16 x 14 15/16 in. (25.56 x 37.94 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 31 July 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 31 July 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print; 11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 5 February 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 5 February 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Balalaika, December 1969' 1969

 

Billy Monk
The Balalaika, December 1969
1969, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
16 x 11 in. (40.64 x 27.94 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 21 November 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 21 November 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

 

David Goldblatt

Born in Randfontein, South Africa, Goldblatt first started photographing his native country in 1948, the same year the National Party came to power and instituted the policy of apartheid. Since then, he has devoted himself to documenting the South African people, landscape, and cities. Goldblatt photographed exclusively in black and white until the late 1990s. Following the end of apartheid and South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, he looked for new expressive possibilities for his work and turned to color and digital photography. This transition only took place after developments in scanning and printing technology allowed Goldblatt to achieve the same sense of depth in his color work as in his black and white photographs.

In 1989 Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg with “the object of teaching visual literacy and photographic skills to young people, with particular emphasis on those disadvantaged by apartheid,” he has said. In 1998 he was the first South African to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. That year, the retrospective David Goldblatt, Fifty-one Years began its international tour, traveling to New York, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Oxford, Brussels, Munich, and Johannesburg. He was also one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. In addition to numerous other solo and group exhibitions, Goldblatt was featured recently in solo shows at the New Museum (2009), the Jewish Museum (2010) in New York – which also traveled to the South African Jewish Museum – and the Victoria and Albert Museum (2011).

.
Ernest Cole

Cole left school at 16 as the Bantu education for black South Africans during apartheid prepared them only for menial jobs. Essentially self taught, Cole worked early on as a layout and darkroom assistant for Drum Magazine, a publication loosely inspired by Life magazine and directed toward the native African population. Cole was relatively mobile due to his racial reclassification as “coloured,” the designation for mixed race, that likely stemmed from his ability to speak Afrikaans, the langauge of Afrikaners. However, Cole was closely surveilled and had to photograph covertly, so he always worked at the risk of being arrested and jailed. He believed passionately in his mission to tell the world in photographs what it was like and what it meant to be black under apartheid, and identified intimately with his own people in photographs. With imaginative daring, courage, and compassion, he portrayed the full range of experience of black people as they negotiated their lives through apartheid.

In 1966, Cole decided to leave South Africa with a dream of making a book; House of Bondage was eventually published in the U.S. in 1967. The book, and Cole himself, were immediately banned in South Africa, and Cole passed away after more than 23 years of painful exile, never returning to his home country and leaving no known negatives and few prints of his monumental work. Tio fotografer, an association of Swedish photographers with whom Cole worked from 1970 to 1975 while living in Stockholm, received a collection of his prints, and these were later donated to the Hasselblad Foundation in Sweden.When David Goldblatt received the Hasselblad award in 2006, he viewed the works and then collaborated with the foundation to bring Cole’s work to light. Many of the prints were shown publicly for the first time in the traveling 2010 retrospective Ernest Cole Photographer, which offered new insights to the complex interaction between Cole’s unflinching revelations of apartheid at work and the power, yet subtlety and even elegance, of his photographic perspective. Ernest Cole Photographer has only been seen in South Africa and Sweden. Approximately one-third of Cole’s photographs on view in the SFMOMA exhibition have never been shown before.

.
Billy Monk

Using a Pentax camera with 35mm lens, Monk photographed the nightclub revellers of The Catacombs and sold the prints to his subjects. His close friendships with many of the people in the pictures allowed him to photograph them with extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. His pictures of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight.

In 1969, Monk stopped taking photographs at the club. A decade later his contact sheets and negatives were discovered in a studio by photographer Jac de Villiers, who recognized the significance of his work and arranged the first exhibition of Monk’s work in 1982 at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg. Monk could not attend the opening, and two weeks later, en route to seeing the exhibition, he was tragically shot dead in a fight. From 2010 to 2011, De Villiers revisited Monk’s contact sheets and curated an exhibition at the  Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, including works that had never been shown before, accompanied by a publication.”

Press release from the SFMOMA website

 

David Goldblatt. 'At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield' 1979-1980

 

David Goldblatt
At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield
1979-1980
Gelatin silver print
14 9/16 x 14 9/16 in. (37 x 37 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club' 1980

 

David Goldblatt
Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club
1980
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 x 19 11/16 in. (50 x 50 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park' 1979

 

David Goldblatt
Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (17.5 x 17.5 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Mark McCain and the Accessions Committee Fund
© David Goldblatt

 

 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Opening hours:
Open daily (except Wednesdays): 11 am – 5:45 pm
Open late Thursdays, until 8:45 pm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,554 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

November 2019
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Archives

Categories