BAHM: 2.18.17 Meleko Mokgosi
Meleko Mokgosi is a New York based artist working in painting and text-based installation. Born in Francistown, Botswana in 1981, Mokgosi moved to the U.S. and earned a B.A. from Williams College in 2007, participated in the Whitney’s Independent Study Program the same year, and earned an M.F.A. from UCLA in 2011. He also participated in the Studio Museum’s Artist in Residency program from 2011 to 2012. His work is large in scale, figural and explores the aesthetics of history painting and cinematic tropes in relation to colonialism, democracy and African liberation, psychoanalysis and post-colonial theory. Meleko Mokgosi: Pax Kaffraria will be exhibited at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center through March 19, 2017 and the Memorial Art Gallery at University of Rochester, NY Feb. 19- May 7.
Mokgosi’s most current series, Democratic Intuition (2014- present) explores in 8 chapters, notions of the democratic in the daily lives of southern Africans and the inherent contradictions of democracy such as the intuitive individual versus the inscribed behaviors of the collective. The series was first shown at the ICA Boston in 2015 and two later chapters, Comrades II and Lerato were exhibited at Jack Shainman Galleries in 2016. Comrades II (2016) explores the role of Communism in southern African liberation through aesthetic and historical elements. Lerato (2016) uses the paintings of William-Adolphe Bouguereau (The Motherland, 1883), created during the scramble for Africa to highlight how the theory of historicity can unsettle a grand historical narrative. The name comes from a Setswana word, loosely translating to love but used as a proper noun for a woman, thus rooting it in the physicality of the everyday. Another interesting series of works, are Mokgosi’s text based paintings titled, Modern Art: The Root of African Savages (2012-2014), which utilizes wall text panels from the Met’s exhibition African Art, New York, and the Avant Garde (2012) and the Getty’s Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City (2009) as source material. These pieces provide an intervention into the educational material presented to the public, to expose the power dynamics and cultural biases of the text. They recall the intervention and institutional critique of artists like Fred Wilson and Glen Ligon’ Notes on the Margin of the Black Book.