Modern Art: The Root of African Savages (2012 – 2016) addresses the problematic reinscription of colonial discourses in an ongoing series of paintings using museum labels as source material. Mokgosi makes critical interventions in the didactics that structure the way the public understands works of art, systematically deconstructing the power dynamics and cultural biases that underpin these presumably neutral, educational descriptors. In this work, Mokgosi takes as his subject the exhibition African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2012).

Modern Art: The Root of African Savages III

Inkjet and charcoal on linen, 22 panels, 36" x 24" each

GIBCA 2015, Installation view

 

Modern Art: The Root of African Savages I, 2012-2013

Inkjet and charcoal on linen, 10 panels, 36" x 24" each

 

Modern Art: The Root of African Savages II, 2012-2014

Inkjet and charcoal on linen, 16 panels, 24"x18" each

 

Modern Art: The Root of African Savages IV, 2012-2015

Inkjet on paper (framed), 16 panels, 24"x18" each

 

 

Wall of Casbah (2009 – 2014) addresses the problematic reinscription of colonial discourses in an ongoing series of paintings using museum labels as source material. Mokgosi makes critical interventions in the didactics that structure the way the public understands works of art, systematically deconstructing the power dynamics and cultural biases that underpin these presumably neutral, educational descriptors. In this work, Mokgosi takes as his subject the exhibition Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City (Getty Center, 2009).

Wall of Casbah, 2014

Inkjet and charcoal on linen, 24"x18" each

 

Adornment, 2010

Inkjet and charcoal on canvas, 8 panels, 34”x40” each

Installation view, Vox Populi, Philadelphia

 

Africanis

 

In Africanis, Mokgosi presents renderings of distinctly southern African breeds of dog, renderings of signs inextricably indexed to nationalist, colonial and post-colonial desires. Dogs and their breeding are so closely allied with developments in human society that they become a poignant way to tease out the political, emotional, and economic aspects of the legacies of colonialism. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred by colonialists to embody an “ideal” balance of European and African hunting dogs for use by the European settlers of sub-Saharan Africa. The Boerboel, an imposing mastiff, was bred by Afrikaner farmers expressly for guarding homesteads; they literally defended the colonial enterprise. The Africanis, disdained by European settlers for decades, has now been revered as an indigenous breed and dubbed “the dog of Africa,” inspiring the launch of societies to preserve it in the 1990s. Through these works, echoing the animals seen throughout the Pax Kaffraria project, the dogs become diachronic characters in the drama of southern African nationalisms.

Africanis, 2013

Oil and charcoal on canvas, 96"x216"

 

Boerboel, Africanis, Rhodesian Ridgeback (Installation view, Honor Fraser), 2014

Charcoal on paper, 72"x130", 72"x216", 72"x130"

 

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© Meleko Mokgosi