Meleko Mokgosi opens “The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future.” at 513 West 20th Street and “Pan-African Pulp” at 524 West 24th Street
Jack Shainman Gallery is proud to announce The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future. and Pan-African Pulp, two solo exhibitions of recent paintings by Meleko Mokgosi. Mokgosi’s third exhibition with Jack Shainman Gallery, these new bodies of work will span both of the gallery’s Chelsea locations.
The title of Mokgosi’s 20th Street installation, The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future., is taken from Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. This text points to the limits of revolutionary discourses and proposes that it is only through disavowing the past that revolutionary action can occur. Similar to this argument, this body of work argues both for a disavowal of past grand narratives as well as the recuperation of non-Western forms of knowledge that were not privileged to coexist with conventional or established discursive frameworks. All twelve paintings are paired with a text that is taken from the writings of women either from Africa or the African Diaspora. The texts and paintings examine a wide range of issues, from African feminism and the struggle for liberation by African countries, to love, solidarity, and aesthetics. By pairing text and image, Mokgosi’s work aims to further questions around the politics of representation and strategies of resistance.
Pan-African Pulp, Mokgosi’s body of work at 24th Street, uses popular southern African pulp magazines or photo-novels to examine, broadly, the history of Pan-Africanism. These photo-novels, colloquially referred to as look-books, were first printed in the 1960s as an off-shoot of Drum Publications. Unlike Drum magazine, which addressed politics and issues of race in South Africa, photo-novels such as Lance Spearman avoided engaging with debates around politics, instead choosing to offer entertaining James Bond-like episodes of crime fighting. The photo novels—a less expensive alternative to filmmaking—are composed of staged photographs depicting action scenes, and follow a script conveyed with speech bubbles written in English, combining elements of comic books, films, and magazines.
Mokgosi has appropriated this trope and created new dialogue and plots within the existing imagery. By specifically focusing on Pan-Africanism, Mokgosi hopes to find meaningful ways of reconceptualizing the importance of a movement that sought to build alliances towards Black consciousness and of foregrounding the rights and aspirations of Africans to self-determination and self-governance. Mokgosi reflects, “There is no doubt about the injustices, inhumanity, exploitation, violence, and racism caused by and associated with the Euro-American slave trade, European imperialism in Africa, and institutionalized racism in the Americas; the effects of these are ongoing and reflected not only in cultural and geopolitical contexts but also in the very reproduction and circulation of capital.” This work is the first of many stages through which Mokgosi intends to engage with urgent questions around Pan-Africanism and solidarity.
Mokgosi received his BA from Williams College in 2007 and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study program that same year. He then received his MFA from the Interdisciplinary Studio Program at the University of California Los Angeles in 2011, and was an Artist in Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2011-2012.
His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, most recently, in 2019 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI and the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA in 2018; Williams College Museum of Art, Rochester Contemporary Art Center and The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery in 2017; and the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston both in 2015; other venues include The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center, Los Angeles, CA; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, France; the Botswana National Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana; and the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art Museum, Peekskill, NY. His work is included in public collections such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art for Rollins College, Winter Park, FL; and the Colby Museum of Art, Waterville, ME among others.
Concurrently on view is Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition at Jack Shainman Gallery | The School, 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY, which opens October 26, 2019