Theatre of the everyday

Published Jul 10, 2015


NEW GESTURES: FABRICATE TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED. By Nico Krijno at the Whatiftheworld gallery until Saturday. LUCINDA JOLLY reviews.

NICO KRIJNO, photographer of the exhibition New Gestures: Fabricated to be Photographed, has been nominated for this year’s Foam Paul Huf Award, which platforms up-and-coming photographic talent. Krijno’s photographs are equally at home on the pages of Wallpaper design magazine, blogs, a personal snapshot album and the art gallery. They refuse the boundaries imposed on by the constraints of category.

The quote accompanying the blurb for this exhibition is by Hungarian painter and photo-grapher and Bauhaus professor, László Moholy-Nagy, whose work was influenced by constructivism and its use of form and abstraction in creating a new social order. It’s a quote that sets the tone for the exhibition.

The quote suggests that convention is the enemy of photography – the enemy of all enterprise from creative, sexual to spiritual, as far as I’m concerned.

The antidote, as the quote suggests, lies in the experimental, an approach also adopted by Krijno. Moholy-Nagy himself predicted photography as the art form of the future, predicting that the new illiteracy would be those ignorant of photography. As the press release suggests, Krijno is concerned with developing a new photographic language.

His occupies the role of inventor, rather than the stereotypical role of voyeuristic observer. He’s also not that keen on categories or photography as a fixed genre. Instead imagery and mood take their place. Krijno may believe that he, “scratches at the glamorous veneer and gets to the bone”, or what he refers to as the “raw animal part”, and that his photographs may sometimes appear cynical and dark.

None of the past rawness and darkness exists in this exhibition, but as with past images they are strongly offset by a subtle seemingly throwaway stylishness synonymous with the “hipsta” culture.

Previous photographs show the “dirty realism” of the gritty everyday domestic.

But the deliberately cheesy humorous sexual innuendos – the spill of testicular fruit and their erect banana counterpart on an unblemished female nude, or the firm female derrière in mesh underwear – have been dropped.

So too are bright fruit bedecked textiles, burning chairs and mangled fences.

The constructions involving the everyday from laundry baskets, clothes horses, mass produced wooden fruit, veneer wood and coloured rope still dominate in Krijno’s presentation of the theatre of the everyday, are this exhibition’s focus. Irony, humour and playfulness are in New Gestures: Fabricated to be Photographed.

The works move between a playful relook at classical busts – think Wim Botha mixed with Roger Ballen – and the modular repatterning and restructuring of still life’s suggestive of the formalism found in constructivist sculptures.

The curls and loops of wood veneer on a wood veneer background, Veneer Wood Wood, takes on a post Duchampian futurist Nude Descending the Stairs feel.

Krijno’s celebration of the everyday goes up a notch with the photograph of a formation of rock and cement common to most building sites, shot on a stylish black and red background.

The sculptural reinterpretations of classical sculpture busts and modular constructions have been playfully modified, either with pressings of strongly coloured play doh, splats of irreverent paint, or spliced and sliced in post- production, so that the images shiver with the aura of an optical migraine.

Ironically the three dimensionality associated with the constructions photographed are flattened, and any shadows that could suggest depth and dimensionality are destroyed through the use of a flash. In this particular exhibition the viewer is caught between regarding the photograph as a photograph and the art work it depicts, where the medium is downplayed to serve as simply a record of the art work.

l Whatiftheworld was founded in 2008 and is now situated in a decommissioned synagogue in Woodstock, which forms part of Cape Town’s recent renewal of Edwardian industria.

Originally the gallery identified a group of young contemporary southern African artists whose practice was underpinned by both global and local contemporary art movements. These artists have, to a large degree, gone on to transform the South African art landscape.

Using their social and personal identities they have twisted the previous generation’s resistance and conceptual based practice into something beyond merely protest conceptualism, embracing both materiality and humour.

The gallery now finds itself in the process of not only continuing to represent these established artists, but is now beginning to nurture its second generation of young African-based artists, by supporting their professional development.

The gallery has a strong history in the area of publishing, having published numerous catalogues, as well as artist monographs, and has hosted a series of noteworthy solo and group exhibitions.

It regularly participates in international art fairs including F rieze New York and VOLTA in Basel, Switzerland.

Gallery artists have exhibited in major exhibitions and biennials including the 55th Venice Biennale; The Havana Biennale; Guangzhou Triennial Guangzhou, China; Le Biennale de Dakar, Senegal, as well as group exhibitions hosted at the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC; SFMOMA San Francisco and MOMA, New York.

Go and see Nico Krijno’s work before the exhibition closes.

l The Whatiftheworld gallery is at 1 Argyle Street in Woodstock, 021 447 2376.

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