Writing Art History Since 2002

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The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Texas is hosting a major retrospective of the work of South African artist Jane Alexander titled Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope). The exhibition opens on 11 August and runs until 4 November 2012.

The exhibition features Alexander’s lauded site-specific tableaux alongside sculptures and photomontages. The exhibition is organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), New York and is guest curated by Pep Subirós. Alexander is best known for her sculptural installations populated by hybrid mutants who seem to exist on a border between human and other forms of animal life. Mapping human behavior – its forces, prejudices, and accomplishments – Alexander stages evocative scenes that introduce opportunities to address complex social relations. Although her sculptures, installations, and photomontages are firmly rooted in her South African experience, and speak to the history of apartheid, they also transcend their locality. Her work reveals the disparity felt around the world between the rhetoric of peace and humanity’s capacity for oppression and violence.

Alexander depicts deliberately ambiguous spaces and characters that invite viewers to consider the artwork’s specific content and metaphorical associations simultaneously. Though clearly engaged with social issues, her sculptural installations and photographs do not present clear judgments, nor do they convey a particular political or moral standpoint. Lisa Binder, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum for African Art states, “Jane Alexander’s creatures expose the human animal for all it is and all it could become. Her work challenges viewers to reflect on the relationship between self and other in an ever-evolving global landscape.”

An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, edited by Pep Subirós with contributions by Jane Alexander, Ashraf Jamal, Kobena Mercer, Simon Njami, Lize van Robbroeck, and Pep Subirós. The publication includes selected excerpts by Lucy Alexander, Okwui Enwezor, Ingo Gildenhard, Sander Gilman, Ashraf Jamal, Julie McGee, John Peffer, Ivor Powell, and Michael Sadgrove.

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