Clinton De Menezes at the Met Museum, New York

Clinton De Menezes, a Johannesburg-born painter living in London, catches the eye of Met curators

Clinton De Menezes, Procession (Exodus), 2008-10, figures, oil paint, emulsion, pigments, ash, mud and light (installation view)

NEW YORK — Clinton De
Menezes, a Johannesburg-born painter and teacher who relocated to the United Kingdom from Durban in 2007, is currently showing a large-scale installation at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a space formerly occupied by Damien Hirst’s infamous 1992 shark piece, which had been on loan to the museum for three years.

De
Menezes’s work, a wall-mounted installation comprising painted plastic figures, pigments, ash, mud and light, shares the space with works by Anish Kapoor, El Anatsui and Liza Lou. Entitled Procession (Exodus), the work was initially exhibited on a group exhibition curated by the New York-based South African artist and filmmaker Thomas Dry Barry. The exhibition, held in February this year and entitled Hearts and Minds, formed part of the programme of the third biennial symposium of the Savannah College of Art and Design
(SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia.
Clinton De Menezes, Procession (Exodus), 2008-10, figures, oil paint, emulsion, pigments, ash, mud and light (installation detail)
“The work was selected by Gary Tinterow, Engelhard curator in charge of 19th century, Modern and Contemporary Art and associate curator, Anne Strauss, from a catalogue,” said De
Menezes, who obtained his MFA from the Durban Institute of
Technology in 2004. “They liked the image and made enquiries about the work which led to the installation at the Met Museum.”

An artist whose work encompasses a range of media, including model
train set props and figures, found objects, earth, plaster, ash, fire,
water, light, pigments, varnish, resin, emulsion and oil paint, in a statement published on his website De
Menezes states that “my
current work is an attempt to conjure up ‘landscapes’ that are
positioned somewhere between utopian dreamscapes and fractured dystopian geographies.”

In a cataloguie accompanying Dry’s exhibition at SCAD, Michaelis lecturer Virginia MacKenny commneted on De
Menezes’s piece: “The work’s minaturisation of form reminds one that the ‘pageant’ of history enacts itself in both grand events and quotidian moments.”
Installation view showing Liza Lou’s Continuous Mile at front and Clinton De Menezes’s Procession (Exodus) left
De
Menezes is not the only artist amongst the four to claim a South African connection. Over the past several years, while living and working in South Africa, New York-born Liza Lou has developed a body of work based upon ideas of
confinement and protection. Her work Security Fence (2005) is a life-size,
silver beaded enclosure of chain-link and razor wire that can neither be entered nor exited. Conceived as a work about work, Continuous Mile (2007-08), Lou’s piece at the Met, is a coiled and stacked rope measuring a mile in length, woven entirely out of bone-white beads, and made with a team of Zulu bead workers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Unlike Hirst’s work (entitled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living), which was on loan for three years, De
Menezes and Lou’s pieces will be on a loan for a year, with the option to renew — “providing,” added De Menezes of his particular work, “the figures stay attached over that period of time.”
Clinton De Menezes, Procession (Exodus), 2008-10, figures, oil paint, emulsion, pigments, ash, mud and light (installation detail)
All photographs courtesy of Clinton De Menezes