Friday, February 12, 2016

Seminar with Claudette Schreuders @ Princeton

Seminar class (l-r): Robia Amjad, Zeena Mubarak, Claudette Schreuders, Zach Feig, Jessica Lu, Fitsum Petros, Vincent Karuri. All photos: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Yesterday, the South African artist Claudette Schreuders, whose latest exhibition, Note to Self, opened last week at Jack Shainman Gallery, in New York City, participated as a guest in my "Art and Politics in Postcolonial Africa" undergraduate seminar. Previous guests have included Ibrahim El Salahi, Jerry Buhari, El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, Julie Mehretu, Ghada Amer, and Paul Stopforth, Next week, Victor Ekpuk, and in April, Lara Baladi. The idea of having this caliber of artists, whose work I could never learn enough about, in a small, intimate seminar with undergraduate students, is one of the reasons teaching still makes sense to me. And this is all thanks to the artists for accepting my invitation. Anyways, here are some pictures from yesterday:

Saturday, February 6, 2016

CAA 2016 Award Ceremony photos

The Award Ceremony of the 104th College Art Association Annual Conference took place at the Marriott Wardman Park, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. Of course I am biased, but it was a great evening--a night when scholars, curators, and artists are acknowledged and celebrated for their work by their peers. For me, the event was an opportunity to express my gratitude to some of the people who in different ways contributed to my work and career: Obiora Udechukwu and El Anatsui (my teachers in art school who instilled in me the idea of art making as an intellectual journey); Lagos-based journalists Toyin Akinosho and Kunle Ajibade (who gave me my first opportunities to write art criticism in Lagos in the early 1990s); the poet Ada Udechukwu, and art historians Sidney Kasfir and James Meyer who made me a better writer; Hal Foster, who remains my model as a critic-art historian; and especially my two brothers and co-travelers Okwui Enwezor and Salah Hassan, with whom I began the critical journey in 1993 when Okwui convened a group of us to establish Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. They kept faith with that dream, particularly through the difficult years. Finally, the award for me is a celebration of the memory of the legendary artist Uche Okeke (1933-2016), a key subject of my book, who died in Nigeria on Jan. 5, the same day my award was announced. Opening up his archive to me made my book possible.

Anyways, here as some photos from the night.
Krista Thompson of Northwestern University, who won the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, at the afternoon reception hosted by Linda Downs, the CAA Executive President

Krista with Dewitt Godfrey, CAA President

Linda Downs (r), with a CAA member

CAA Fellows

Krista receiving her award

From right: Artist Victor Ekpuk, moi, Cornell University's Salah Hassan, and artist Tania Bruguera who gave the keynote lecture

Eminent art historian and Columbia University professor, Rosalind Krauss, who received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement for Writing on Art award

Audience at the reception

Selfie with Tania

From Left: Victor, Salah, art historians Terry Smith (University of Pittsburgh), and Frieda High Tesfagiorgis (formerly of University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Art historians, Eddie Chambers (University of Texas-Austin) and Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Princeton)

Salah and Terry

Selfie with Krista 

Selfie with Terry

Salah, moi, Victor

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Claudette Schreuders opening at Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC

Claudette Schreuders
Note to Self
February 4 - March 12, 2016
Opening reception for the exhibition: Thursday, February 4th, 6-8pm
524 West 24th Street
Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present Claudette Schreuders’ fifth solo exhibition with the gallery, whose intimately scaled lithographs and sculptures speak to the ambiguities of the search for a South African identity in the post-apartheid era. Featuring a new group of painted and carved busts, Note to Self reflects the artist’s diverse trove of personal and creative touchstones. The resulting body of work is both a tribute to these influences, as well as an opportunity to explore the uncanny intricacies of portraiture in wood.
The titular work of the exhibition depicts the artist standing, a paint-splattered apron tied around her waist, a sketchbook and pencil in hand. Her face looks out past the viewer, as if to pause between thoughts or summon inspiration from the well of individuals behind her, which include the musician Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, the painters Alice Neel, Balthus, and Paula Modersohn Becker, and several family members. Note to Self, 2015 is grounded firmly on the floor, while the menagerie of faces float on pedestals of varying heights, a retinue of inspiration made manifest from the annals of memory and creativity.
Balthus’ presence in the exhibition extends beyond the wooden likeness of him. Known for depicting domestic interiors and dreamlike nudes, he is a clear artistic predecessor, infusing Scheuders’ soft lines and delicate portraits. The 20th-century French painter’s presence is perhaps most explicitly felt in representations of full figures. The diminutive Loved Ones, 2012, a girl, nude except for a blue school uniform skirt and grey sandals, formally alludes to Balthus’ painting, Young Girl with White Skirt, 1955, while her big brown eyes reveal an inner complexity. Lithographs (such as Mirror, 2015, a take on Balthus’ Nude Before a Mirror, 1955) document poignant bodies, dense and round. Their unselfconscious imperfection renders them vulnerable.
The appearance of fellow South Africans, Marlene Dumas, Bessie Head, Anton Kannemeyer, Nelson Mandela, and Brett Murray, shed further light on the genesis of the artist’s unique biography, born to Dutch parents in Pretoria. The amalgam of individuals underscores a long-held interest in how the fabric of a place shapes a person:
It's portraiture, but it's a vehicle for telling a particular story, or the way in which society makes people who they are, or the group against the individual. As soon as you make a figure, it has an identity…
For Schreuders, a single portrait alludes to the particular web of individuals who impact the person represented. If the staggered installation of wood figures brings to mind the famous exaltation, “be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid,” the exhibition as a whole is a deeply personal portrait of the artist, annotated with the people and relationships that made the physical work in the gallery space possible. Note to Self encourages us to cite our influences proudly, and most importantly, to keep them close. 
Born in 1973 in Pretoria, South Africa, Claudette Schreuders now lives and works in Cape Town. Her work is featured in collections around the world, with a strong presence in major New York City institutions, including both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, where a suite of her lithographs were part of Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now in 2011.
Schreuders has shown extensively in international exhibitions that address themes of childhood, intimacy, and lingering tensions in a post-colonial world, such as Disturbing Innocence, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, New York (2015), Prose/Re-Prose: Figurative Works Then and Now, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia (2012), The Rainbow Nation, The Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, Netherlands (2012), and Artist in Residence: Claudette Schreuders at LUX Art Institute, Encinitas, California (2011).
Concurrently on view is Of a Different Nature, featuring the work of El Anatsui, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Maya Lin at 513 West 20th Street and a group exhibition, Winter in America, at The School in Kinderhook, NY. Upcoming exhibitions include Barkley L. Hendricks at our 24th Street gallery and Malick Sidibé at 20th Street, both opening March 17, 2016. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm. For additional information and photographic material, please contact the gallery at