The current show entitled “Zulu Beads” offers an astonishing array of objects and artworks, from traditional marriage capes, ceremonial spoons, beer pots, dolls, gauntlets and headrests to studio photographs and a contemporary wall piece in ochre and black burlap by Thabiso Phokompe, a young Zulu artist who made his New York debut in the “Liberated Voices” exhibition at the Museum for African Art in 1999.”
– Joy Garnett, Artnet
” … South Africa remains underrepresented in museums, in part because its primary art form is beadwork rather than sculpture, and most of its artists are women.
Fortunately, anyone interested in seeing a concentration of this material can do so in a show called “Zulu” at Axis Gallery in Chelsea, a space run by the art historians Lisa Brittan and Gary van Wyck devoted to South African culture. The art on view, much of it 20th century, includes a beaded waistcoat, an amazing marriage cape made of rows of lacelike beadwork sewn in overlapping bands, and a constellation of fantastic hats, peaked and pancake flat.
Galleries like Axis are a valuable supplement to the city’s museums and a lively addition to its commercial art scene. New York is so great this way. Everything’s here, in one form or another, and there’s more of it than anywhere else. It’s a place where the sheer number of cultures invites big questions all the time.”
– Holland Cotter, The New York Times
“THIS much is certain: the art world will have Chelsea to kick around for a few seasons more, at least. Everyone loves to complain about New York’s newest art destination. It’s too far from everything, especially subways. There aren’t enough places to eat, especially cheaply. There’s too much concrete, much of it indoors.
Still, last month’s issue of the Gallery Guide lists more than 170 galleries in the area. If the influx suggests a lemminglike failure of imagination, as the area expands it is also diversifying. Yes, there is the Gagosian Gallery multiplex, with two and three big names on the marquee at once, and another bruiser, PaceWildenstein, is to open a Chelsea branch in September. But this season four of New York’s oldest artist-run co-ops managed to carve out spaces on West 25th Street. And the Esso Gallery, which ran on a shoestring on Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side for four years, is now running on a shoestring on West 28th Street. It is one of several galleries on blocks east of Ninth Avenue (some even east of Fifth Avenue), an area known for lower rents and already christened E-Chel.
There are also some singularly focused new additions, like the Axis Gallery at 453 West 17th Street (in one of the few Chelsea gallery buildings with wood floors). Its concentration is on South African art, both traditional and contemporary, and photography, and the current exhibition of the various, often beaded arts of the Zulu is a visual knockout.”
– Roberta Smith, The New York Times