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Cape art picks: February 3 2012

Miles Keylock

The World Press Photo 2011 Exhibition is both a ­celebration of the medium and a startling portrait of our ­contemporary world.

Since graduating in 2008 sculptor Stuart Bird has gained acclaim for his rigorous conceptualism that still somehow segues into the world of everyday life in startling ways.

His first solo show comprises a body of work characterised by intelligence and skill, and it has a sharp focus on the real world he inhabits and the role of images in it. Titled Promise Land, it features a series of meticulously and often obsessively handcrafted sculptures and installations. They implode the South African myth that our society is somehow ­exceptional. A journey into the eternally deterred dreams and unfulfilled promises of the past, it offers a devastating critique of both contemporary politics and art.

Bird, however, is no pessimist and for all the potential doom and gloom, the erratic poetic wit and beauty at play here imply an uncompromising insistence on the utopian potential of creativity in the face of ­disappointment and decay.

Goodman Gallery, 3rd floor, Fairweather House, 176 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock. Until ­February 25. Tel: 021 462 7573. Website: goodman-gallery.com.

■ “This could become one of those pictures—and we have maybe just 10 in our lifetime—where if somebody says ‘you know, that picture of a girl —’, you know exactly which one they’re talking about.” That is how David Burnett, 2011 World Press Photo competition jury chair, described South African photographer Jodi Bieber’s winning image.

Almost a year later Burnett’s prediction has come true. Most South Africans will instantly recognise Bierder’s stunning picture of a beautiful but mutilated Afghan girl, Bibi, that emblazoned the front cover of Time magazine, yet few have experienced its impact first-hand. This is set to change with the arrival of the World Press Photo 2011 Exhibition in Cape Town. Featuring the work of the 56 winning entries, it is both a ­celebration of the medium and a startling portrait of our ­contemporary world. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of ­workshops and lectures, including master classes hosted by Bieber.

Castle of Good Hope, corner of Darling and Buitenkant streets, Cape Town. Until February 17. Entrance costs R5 to R28 a person. Tel: 021 787 1249. Website: worldpressphoto.org.

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