Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015

About

Goodman Gallery Cape Town
23 May – 18 July 2015

ruby onyinyechi amanze, Ghada Amer, Candice Breitz, Virginia Chihota, Ivy Chemutai Ng’ok, Otobong Nkanga, Nkiru Oparah, Tracey Rose, Adejoke Tugbiyele, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Arlene Wandera, Ellen Gallagher

Speaking Back seeks to reveal deeply significant dimensions of culture and subjectivity, history and struggle, by bringing women together as diverse artists to find out what each in her artistically signified yet gendered/racial/sexual/cultural singularity is offering to the world, to us all. It seeks to attain a more complete knowledge of that world, as it is lived, from multiple positions over time and space.

We have a tendency in exhibitions of work by women to generalise the artists as merely exemplars of a gendered collective: women, a sexualising nomination by which they are, as a category lumped together, their singularity annulled. While the exhibition makes space – conceptually and physically – for women artists, it embraces the potential of aesthetic practice to bring forward the singularity of each person and the variations in her specific symbolic capacities. If there are any generalisations to be made, it could be said that Speaking Back, prioritises narration – the use of particularly chosen aesthetic practices to convey a story to an audience. Not just as storytelling, but as speaking authentically, with vulnerability and strength, about who we are, and about the power of narration and its endless possibilities for reinvention.

Presented for the first time in South Africa, Ellen Gallagher is an acclaimed artist who, starting in the mid-1990s, has united various media with a range of subject matter to explore the place, and places, of African Americans. In Odalisque (2005), one of the artworks in the exhibition, Gallagher takes a photograph by Man Ray of Matisse, substitutes Freud’s head for that of Matisse’s and gives the model who is being drawn (and whose dress suggests that she is from that most sexualised and most sexually unequal context, the harem) the artists own face. Like the artist staring back at him from a reclining body, we confront the image of a great narrator of the universal psychic world attempting – it would appear with some awkwardness – to draw, and hence represent, an individual reality. Odalisque prompts us to consider what we can and cannot represent about others and ourselves.

In another instance, Virginia Chihota’s stunning screen prints urge us to reconsider not only the lives and strategies of individual artists but also the circumstances in which African diasporic female identity, visibility, and history have been produced and transformed. Her obsessive re-exploration of themes, such as, marriage and motherhood is transformed into a body of works that is striking in its symbolic resonance, and rife with allusions to everyday life, and religious and folkloric symbolism. In the series, root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive, 2014) our encounter with Chihota is dominated by the black female figure she insistently imagines, demonstrating a method of representing the self differently while exercising her right and desire to confirm and consolidate her identity as artist and her experience as female.

Adejoke Tugbiyele’s multimedia aesthetic practice offers a different take on sexual identity and political freedom –an issue all too familiar to South African audiences through the work of local artists and political activists. Tugbiyele is an emerging Nigerian-American artist and activist who spent her formative years growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Her series of drawings, inspired by the journalistic fervour in Lagos during the passing of Nigeria’s anti-gay laws in 2014, draws attention to the self-righteous moralising inherent in contemporary media narratives surrounding the bill and her conceptual sculpture, Unpray the Flesh (2013) investigates religious complicity in the persecution of marginalised groups through the conjoining of religious symbolism with phallocentric worship. In AfroOdyssey V: Demons Contained, a performative video piece, Tugbiyele delves into her own sexual identifications and the narrative ramifications of ‘coming out,’ for familial and cultural histories.

New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas is best known for her elaborate paintings composed of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel which articulate complex visions of what it means to be a woman and expands stereotypical definitions of beauty. Her film about her mother, former fashion model Sandra Bush, demonstrates her ongoing engagement with portraiture as a key to personal and cultural identity. In the process of this extraordinary film, Thomas reveals the complex role of the mother-daughter bond for each woman’s sense of self. Internationally renowned, Otobong Nkanga employs traces of memory and human activity as the sounding board for narration and ‘the performative’ in her work that negotiate the cycle of art between the aesthetic realm of display and a strategies of de-sublimation that push the status of the artwork as contingency. In her artist book, No Be One Story O! (2010) Nkanga makes a radical artistic departure into the realm of literature itself. Based on a series of earlier drawings, Filtered Memories that represent select childhood and adolescent memories of the artist, the book explores the consequences of memory and, simultaneously, the defamiliarisation of the art object.

Speaking Back suggests and invites an encounter with expanded methods of cultural inquiry and the heterogeneity and creativity of contemporary art in the work of the above-mentioned artists as well as that of Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, Ghada Amer, Candice Breitz, Tracy Rose, Ivy Chemutai Ng’ok, Nkiru Oparah, Kara Walker, and Arlene Wandera.

  • Kuna muvambi wehupenyu

    Virginia Chihota

    Kuna muvambi wehupenyu, 2013

    Screenprint and mixed media on paper

    120 x 124cm

  • The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive)

    Virginia Chihota

    The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive), 2014

    Screenprint on paper

    120 x 80cm

  • The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive)

    Virginia Chihota

    The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive), 2014

    Screenprint on paper

    120 x 80cm

  • The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive)

    Virginia Chihota

    The root of the flower we do not know (mudzi weruva ratisingazive), 2014

    Screenprint on paper

    120 x 80cm

  • Africa Loves Obama, But...

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Africa Loves Obama, But... , 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • As Ugly As The Devil

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    As Ugly As The Devil , 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Reward for Sin is Death

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Reward for Sin is Death , 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Anus for Defication

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Anus for Defication, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Bring back the death Penalty

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Bring back the death Penalty, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Exit Only, no Entry

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Exit Only, no Entry, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5 cm

  • Barack Obama, Back Off

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Barack Obama, Back Off, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Death by Stoning

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Death by Stoning, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • We Support Our Parliament, Uganda

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    We Support Our Parliament, Uganda, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Let's Unite Against Sodomy

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Let's Unite Against Sodomy, 2014

    Archival sepia ink on archival acetate

    43 x 35.5cm

  • Unpray the Flesh

    Adejoke Tugbiyele

    Unpray the Flesh, 2013

    Rubber dildo and skull beads

    84 x 30 x 9cm

  • The Climb

    Ivy Chemutai Ng'ok

    The Climb, 2015

    Oil on Canvas

    250 x 148cm

  • I've Always Wanted a Doll's House

    Arlene Wandera

    I've Always Wanted a Doll's House, 2013-2014

    Mixed medium

    Variable

  • The Black Paintings: Dead White Man

    Tracey Rose

    The Black Paintings: Dead White Man, 2012

    Single-channel colour projection with stereo audio / Single-channel projection

    12 min 9 sec

  • Factum: Tremblay

    Candice Breitz

    Factum: Tremblay, 2009

    2 Hard Drives

    78 minutes, 8 seconds

    Edition of 5

  • Odalisque

    Ellen Gallagher

    Odalisque, 2005

    Site installation: slide projection and gold leaf

    Dimensions variable

  • In search of divine love with simple faith I find I Am Who I Am, I find my self

    Nkiru Oparah

    In search of divine love with simple faith I find I Am Who I Am, I find my self, 2015

    Video in framed monitor

    Edition of 5

  • Poetics of reverie

    Nkiru Oparah

    Poetics of reverie, 2014

    Video in framed monitor

    Edition of 5

  • study n°121714, projection or rejection? the anima meets resistance to inertia

    Nkiru Oparah

    study n°121714, projection or rejection? the anima meets resistance to inertia, 2014

    Video in framed monitor

    Edition of 5

    ...
  • study n°092314 descent into ashes: revisiting the katabasis phenomenon

    Nkiru Oparah

    study n°092314 descent into ashes: revisiting the katabasis phenomenon, 2014

    Video in framed monitor

    Edition of 5

  • with the galaxy beneath her, she remembered the magic of soaring amidst coconut clouds

    ruby onyinyechi amanze

    with the galaxy beneath her, she remembered the magic of soaring amidst coconut clouds, 2014

    Pencil, ink, photo transfers

    20...

  • Chasing relentlessly after fading things - The Birth of BLACK, audre marries its indigenous self - Shadows validate existence (ada and Twin find ground)

    ruby onyinyechi amanze

    Chasing relentlessly after fading things - The Birth of BLACK, audre marries its indigenous self - Shadows validate existence (ada and Twin fin...

  • Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman

    Mickalene Thomas

    Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman, 2012

    Digital video

    23 min 06 sec

  • Dreaming of Felipe-RFGA

    Ghada Amer

    Dreaming of Felipe-RFGA, 2010

    Embroidery, acrylic and gel medium on canvas

    71.1 x 80cm

  • Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale

    Kara Walker

    Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale, 2011

    Video

    17 min

    Edition of 5

  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]
  • Installation picture [Speaking Back | Curated by Natasha Becker / 2015]