Writing Art History Since 2002

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An in-depth, research-based solo exhibition that looks at the history and psychogeography of specific cultural and heritage sites in Cape Town, South Africa. The exhibition includes a commissioned site-specific life-sized silhouette, a central motif of Evans’ practice.

Mary Evans, Cape Town Vignette, Table Mountain, 2023. Brown Kraft paper cut-out, 70 x 50cm. Courtesy of the artist. Commissioned by Zeitz MOCAA. © Deniz Guzel

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) announces a new solo exhibition by Nigerian-born, British artist Mary Evans. Titled ‘GILT’, the exhibition presents new work commissioned by Zeitz MOCAA and will open on Friday, 17 February.

“Since 2019, Zeitz MOCAA has presented a considered programme of in-depth solo exhibitions that tell the stories of an essential part of contemporary art history from Africa and its diaspora. Inviting Mary Evans to be part of this narrative gives our audiences access to a multi-layered engagement with the social, historical and aesthetics of Black visuality and iconography. We are also excited by the newly commissioned works that Mary offers in this exhibition as they take into consideration both the South African context and that of her own lived experience as a British-Nigerian artist,” says Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director & Chief Curator at Zeitz MOCAA.

In ‘GILT’, Evans tells stories about the resilience of Black people and their ability to endure and prevail despite the challenges meted out to them. The exhibition title is a play on the words ‘gilt’ and ‘guilt’. While the former refers to something that resembles gold laid on a surface, the latter suggests the feeling of inadequacy and, in the context of the Black experience, what may be a consequence of surviving the historical wounds of slavery, colonialism, apartheid and even late-stage capitalism.

A central motif of Evans’ decades-long practice is that of the life-sized silhouette. She assembles many silhouetted figures in a narrative form, which she calls ‘history paintings’. The large-scale works act as a type of glyph or coded visual language that counters difficult Black histories. The figures function as a familiar device to provide viewers with an entryway into the artist’s work. The scenes of figures in varying shades of brown, placed against monochromatic landscapes, reference histories of colonial entanglement while facilitating a humanistic reading of the Black figure as every body. Her process and choice of paper-based and disposable materials, signal the historical and contemporary ways in which the Black body has been treated — cheaply, shipped, broken, disposed of and feared.

Thato Mogotsi, the curator of the exhibition and Assistant Curator at Zeitz MOCAA, adds: “’GILT’ is an important exhibition from an artist whose decades-long practice has been concerned with the imposition of oppressive systems of power on Black bodies. At the same time, Evans contends with the specificity of Cape Town as a complex site of shared diasporas, migratory experiences and global exchange.”

As part of ‘GILT’, Evans will present new work commissioned by Zeitz MOCAA that is a site-specific response informed by a period of research and exploration in Cape Town and, by extension, South Africa. Evans has conceived an installation that invigorates the rich iconography of shared histories of resistance and resonance.

GILT by Mary Evans opens on Level 1 at Zeitz MOCAA and will run from Friday, 17 February through Sunday, 29 October 2023. The exhibition forms part of an ongoing series of in-depth, research-based solo exhibitions by Zeitz MOCAA that brings into focus and contextualises the practices of important artists from Africa and the diaspora.

Zeitz MOCAA’s exhibition and curatorial programming is generously supported by Gucci. The exhibition will be on view from the 17th of February until the 28th of October 2023. For more information, please visit Zeitz MOCAA.

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