Axis Gallery, New York
September 10 – October 12, 2002
This group exhibition, linked to Axis Gallery’s previous exhibition CON/TEXT, brings together works related to identity and ideology by the following artists.
In this installation Profile, the artist’s personal identity is expressed by icons impressed into her skin. The impressions refer to oppositions that played a role in constructing her identity: Black/White, European/Middle Eastern, Muslim/Catholic, European/African, South African/African, and the historical background of colonialism and apartheid. The eight faces include a cross, rakam (Muslim prayer), British imperial crown, Apartheid-era riot shield, African beadwork panel, Dutch windmill, and cloves, which refer to the spice trade that led the Dutch to colonize the Cape and linked them with Muslim states to the east, where some of Searle’s ancestors originated.
Murray’s plastic works bespeak the ideological functions of cultural icons and of humor, particularly from the point of view of America’s global influence and its blindspots. In several recent works, a Bart Simpson-like figure is used to convey Murray’s signature irony. In Getting the Fundamentals Right, “Bart” is a banner-bearer for fundamentalist ideologies, different yet identical. Recently, Murray won a controversial competition for Cape Town’s largest public sculpture of recent years. It consisted of a monumental bronze replica of an African ancestor figure, which sprouted numerous, polychrome Bart-like heads.
Langerman’s recent interest in imaging the body was inspired by genetic engineering and the project to map the human genome. This work applies these themes to gender issues, and considers how equations and logic have been used as methods of stereotyping women’s roles. Langerman considers the layering of techniques and materials within the boxes as metaphorical of how codes and other types of information both obscure and reveal.
Nemasetoni explores how identity is evidenced, documented, articulated, and erased. His sculptures examine the construction of a current aesthetic of many inner-city African-American women, called “BlingBling.” His monoprints, executed in the Bob Blackburn print workshop, focus on identity documents for himself, his family, and such known artworld figures as Bob Blackburn, Alexander Sakharov, and Bill Wright. His family’s documents are the notorious “pass books” that blacks were forced to carry under Apartheid. Passes identified bearers and limited their rights and identities. The print entitled Litany, is he for real? is a standard form used for South African crime reports. It also harks back to theories of typing that linked criminality with physical appearance. The monoprints are transfers, each unique though produced from an absent master.
Using one continuous thread, Lijnes conjures facsimiles of South African currency notes onto everyday consumer bags. Nature confronts culture. Lijnes remarks, “We think the wild animal is dangerous. It is not. It is endangered. We think of the plastic bag as immaterial and banal. It is not. It is dangerous.” The patience of the woman’s stitch, the “traditional” obedience and meekness of women, meets the wild animal and consumerism, which “tames” us. The mode of artistic production contrasts with the mass production of both bags and currency. Currency carries the added irony that it signifies value but, as mere paper, is virtually worthless. A common currency unites us, but ideology differentiates us.