The latest exhibition Both, and opened on Thursday and reflects on the past 15 years of the gallery’s existence through a selection of some 50 artists curated by the gallery’s newest partners, Alexander Richards and Sisipho Ngodwana.
They have tried to cast their minds back and make selections that serve as odes to modern and contemporary art while also celebrating the history of the gallery, its publication programme, local presence and global perspective.
The exhibition is a massive undertaking for the young curators, and will run simultaneously across the Stevenson’s Cape Town and Joburg locations.
Weekend Argus toured the gallery with the curators before the opening and they explained the choices and challenges with Both, and.
“A lot of the artists that you will see are not necessarily our gallery artists; they’re from the continent or international but it shows what Stevenson has been able to bring to the game,” said Richards.
With that in mind the first artist featured is locally based and born Berni Searle. Her 2001 video installation Snow White features Searle kneeling naked while being covered with flour. “Flour is poured over her head, then water, and she starts kneading bread... What’s important about this work in relation to the show is throughout the show there are a lot of questions about how you make something from nothing,” said Richards.
Other featured artists include Breyten Breytenbach, Jordan Casteel, Nicholas Hlobo, Pieter Hugo, Simphiwe Ndzube, Jo Ractliffe and more.
Giving the public access to the entire gallery was a central theme for the curators and became a point of importance for them in keeping with the overarching message of celebrating the history of the gallery.
“We have a video installation in our vault by Francis Als. It’s called The Nightwatch and what it essentially shows us is how the artist let a fox loose in the National Portrait Gallery in London and captureed it on the (gallery’s) security camera,” said Ngodwana.
Richards adds: “We get to see how a fox interacts with the art in the space and how it jumps on the furniture and moves around, and that’s interesting because it shows us how people might react in this gallery to the exhibition.
“We have the installation up in our vault because this is also where we keep the publications of our artists who have exhibited here and other materials that the public never gets to see and that keeps in line with our open access.”
Other parts of the gallery used to display artwork include the central office space as well as the backroom usually used for storage, while the bathrooms are covered wall to wall with posters from previous exhibitions held at the gallery.
Jane Alexander’s Frontier with Church depicts an array of animal-human hybrids re-enacting a scene from Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Originally commissioned for the travelling exhibition of the same title and first shown at the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, the installation’s reconfiguration in the gallery prompts ideas about mythologies, the secular and the sacred.
The artwork presents the viewer with an ominous feeling and the backstory to the work alludes to the metaphor of trying to escape from hell. “It’s looking at the relationship between Africa and the West and the ladder used in the installation is a representation of people fleeing from Morocco to Spain to get to their idea of paradise, which is a refugee camp,” said Ngodwana.
“So it’s this idea of people trying to attain this idea of liberty and freedom, which they don’t really ever get.”
Also included in the exhibition is David Goldblatt’s exhibition Intersections Intersected, which was originally featured in 2008 at the gallery. “It’s his older works from the 1970s and 1980s in black and white imagery paired with more recent contemporary works and, if you think of our 15 years as a marker of time, these also serve as markers of time to see how something has changed,” said Richards.
Both, and is at the Stevenson until August 22. The Stevenson Gallery is in the Buchanan Building at 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock.