Writing Art History Since 2002

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The exhibition South Africa in Apartheid and After at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) examines the work of three photographers — David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, and Billy Monk.

Ernest Cole, A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen., 1960-1966; gelatin silver print; Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden; © The Ernest Cole Family Trust

This exhibition continues SFMOMA’s renowned scholarship in the field of documentary photography, presenting work by photographers who have depicted what they have seen during a vital and difficult period in the recent history of South Africa.

Goldblatt’s book project In Boksburg (1982) portrays a typical suburban white community not far from Johannesburg shaped by what the artist calls “white dreams and white proprieties.” The late Cole, a self-taught black South African photojournalist, documented the other side of the racial divide until he was forced to leave his country in 1966. Recently Goldblatt recovered a group of Cole’s original prints, organised a retrospective tour of the work, and championed an accompanying book project, Ernest Cole, photographer. Selected works from the book — deeply human without a trace of sensationalism — add an important dimension to Goldblatt’s work included here.

Monk was a gregarious self-taught photographer who worked as a bouncer in a rowdy Cape Town nightclub in the 1960s. His work, also recovered and reprinted after his death with assistance from Goldblatt, made a raw and beautiful record of the port city’s racially mixed population. These three groups of pictures will be complemented by a selection of Goldblatt’s post-apartheid photographs.

The exhibition runs from 01 December 2012 – 03 March 2013.


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