Cape art picks: November 4 2011

SA activist and artist Zanele Muholi approaches disturbing issues, while American artist Frohawk Two-Feathers has fun at the system’s expense.

? American artist Frohawk Two-Feathers is above all a trickster, a master rascal, who subverts pop strategies to infiltrate the system and turn the tools of the corporate art world and colonial capitalism against their masters.

His playful illustrations and paintings combine references to colonial-era portraiture with the outsider-art aesthetic of murals and public art to explore the intricacies of race, class and the fragility of how history is constructed. For his first solo exhibition in South Africa, Edge of the Earth Isn’t Far from Here, he has unearthed long-forgotten events in the Cape Colony of 1792.

Don’t expect a history lesson. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s notion of an archaeology of the present — the image of the past reflecting what is to become of the future — he revisits history to offer an amplified critique of the joy, madness and ambiguity of contemporary South African politics and culture.

Michael Stevenson Gallery, Ground floor, Buchanan Building, 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, until November 25. Tel: 021 462 1500. Website: www.michaelstevenson.com.

? At a glance, the radiant abstract works in Zanele Muholi’s new exhibition appear to be a radical departure from the past. Recalling fractals, starbursts and butterflies, these digital collages speak to an aesthetic more often associated with corporate art than her usual activism. Don’t be fooled by their seemingly benign appearance.

Isilumo siyaluma (2006-2011) is Muholi’s most personal and political exhibition to date. Taking its title from an isiZulu expression that can translate as “period pains/periods pain”, this is an exhibition of menstrual bloodstains. “At one level, my project deals with my own menstrual blood, with that secretive, feminine time of the month that has been reduced within Western patriarchal culture to being dirty,” says Muholi.

On a deeper level, it speaks to the pain she experiences in response to the “curative rapes” inflicted on the black lesbian community. These are urgent, physical, dangerously beautiful visual poems of rage and bravery. It is confession in its purest sense, not employed to elicit sympathy or shock, but because the stakes are high: speak out or cease to exist. Join Muholi in dialogue with 12 women on their own relationship with blood and menstruation on November 4.

Blank Projects, 113-115 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, until November 26. Tel: 072 1989221. Website: www.blankprojects.com.

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Miles Keylock
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