Pioneering artists Gladys Mgudlandlu and Valerie Desmore's work is investigated through memory, history and archiving in an exhibition titled A Fragile Archive at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
TWO of South Africa’s pioneering artists, Gladys Mgudlandlu and Valerie Desmore, will be in the spotlight as the public positioning of their work is investigated through memory, history and archiving in an exhibition titled A Fragile Archive at the Johannesburg Art Gallery from 29 January.
Gladys Mgudlandlu, Bride and Groom, gouache on board, 52 x 73.5cmGladys Mgudlandlu, Bride and Groom, gouache on board, 52 x 73.5cmCurated by Nontobeko Ntombela, the exhibition looks at the contribution of these artists. “It questions the way that their position is understood and written, by restaging Mgudlandlu’s first public exhibition held in 1961,” says JAG’s public programmes manager Tiny Malefane.
“The exhibition further consists of several installations, including Valerie Desmore’s works currently held by public institutions and selected pieces by other black women artists from JAG’s collection.”
Mgudlandlu was initially recognised as South Africa’s first black female artist in the early 1960s, and even though this claim has since been refuted by recent research, it has had a massive impact on the way that her art is positioned. The exhibition therefore intends to understand how the country’s political past, as well as Western ideologies, have influenced image-making in South Africa.
“This historical context has influenced the way these artists have been construed,” says Malefane. “One of the consequences of this legacy of aesthetic, technical and conceptual discrepancies is a differentiation between the work of self-taught and academically-trained artists, often privileging the latter and dismissing the former.”
Even though Desmore’s work precedes Mgudlandlu’s, it only made a reappearance in the country in the late 1990s. “The neglect of Desmore’s contribution – from the early 1940s – speaks to the manner in which the authority and control of valuing systems of that time influenced the writing of art history,” she adds.
A Fragile Archive opens on 29 January at 4pm and will be exhibited until 8 April.
JAG is located in Joubert Park, and the entrance is in King George Street. For more information, you can contact Tiny Malefane by phoning 011 725 3130, faxing 011 720 6000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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