Developing Democracy: A New Focus on South African Photography

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The Mill, Pomfret Asbestos Mine, Pomfret, North-West Province, 20 December 2002, 2002 Digital Print 40.75 X 49.75 In (103.5 X 126.4 Cm) © David Goldblatt
Developing Democracy: A New Focus on South African Photography

150 West 25th Street
6th Floor
New York, NY 10001
March 12th, 2009 - May 30th, 2009
Opening: March 12th, 2009 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 6 pm
african, contemporary, South, photography


The Kyle Kauffman Gallery is pleased to announce Developing Democracy: a New Focus on South African Photography, running from March 12 - May 30, 2009 in our new location at 150 West 25th Street.

Developing Democracy is a group exhibition focusing on dominant trends in South African contemporary photography. Included in the exhibition is recent work by David Goldblatt, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Nontsikelelo ‘Lolo' Veleko, Raymond Keeping, Senzeni Marasela and others. These artists, young and old, male and female, white and black, world-renowned and upcoming, reflect the diversity of the new South Africa. While their subject matter, aesthetic, and approaches to the medium are equally varied, they are all working to subvert earlier photographic traditions, in order to create an innovative visual language for a new post-apartheid culture.

For over 50 years, celebrated photographer David Goldblatt has been documenting the changing political landscape of South Africa. With a discerning eye, Goldblatt captures within deceptively mundane images, South African landscape and infrastructure that on closer inspection, subtly bear indices of the political, economic, and social upheaval of the apartheid era. Rather than operate through spectacle, like much photojournalistic work in Africa during the 1960's and 1970's, Goldblatt's political criticism always lies just underneath the surface of his beautiful, quiet imagery.

Just as Goldblatt uses the genre of landscape photography to make clear larger sociopolitical concerns, Zwelethu Mthethwa's domestic scenes portray a similar interconnection between human subjects and their environs. In Two Young Girls, Mthethwa utilizes the already-present bright colors and forms of the girls' clothing and home to aesthetically interweave subject and background, formally demonstrating the significance of a place in forging identity.

In the series, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, emerging photographer Nontsikelelo ‘Lolo' Veleko radicalizes this exploration of space-identity. In a style reminiscent of Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, Veleko documents the dress and culture of young, urban hipsters as they roam the streets of Johannesburg, capturing the vibrant subculture of the new "Afropolitan". Veleko's photography, with its aesthetic of beauty and fashion, breaks with a prevailing South African photojournalistic vision of violence, poverty, and war that has entrenched negative stereotypes of Africans in the Western mind for decades. Rather, she formally flattens the buildings of Johannesburg in the background, to reveal strong, positive black bodies whose individualized self-expression defies a connection to any specific place or history.

These images form an interesting juxtaposition with the colonial world in the work of Raymond Keeping. Developed in 2006, but taken in 1950's, these images are believed to be the earliest color photographs that document the material culture of the Zulu and Xhosa peoples.

And finally, for the first time, the gallery is pleased to present work by Senzeni Marasela. In her work, Marasela stretches the boundaries of the medium of photography by incorporating other materials, as in Kafirs! Yes I know they Are all the Same, in which the photograph is developed on a beaded cloth and electroplated silver tray.

Please join us for an opening reception on Thursday, March 12, from 6 - 8 pm. For further inquiries, contact the Gallery.


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