A Heady Mix of Big Ideas in “THEOREM” at Mana Contemporary
For curator and critic Octavio Zaya, contemporary artists and their work are far too frequently misunderstood. His recently opened exhibition at Mana Contemporary—titled “THEOREM. You Simply Destroy the Image I Always Had of Myself”—stands as a partial corrective to this. Through it, he aims to destroy surface interpretations and preconceived notions about art and its makers with a wide-ranging array of projects, each one of which is much more than meets the eye.
“THEOREM” is presented in Mana’s light-flooded and capacious Glass Gallery, designed by celebrated architect
Since the gap between how things appear and what they really are was a motivating force for Zaya, he places Singaporean artist
For South African artist Jo Ractliffe, the disconnect between appearances and reality may be achingly seen in the subtly scarred landscapes of her own country—provided you know what to look for. In her “As Terras do Fim do Mundo” series (2009–10), she shows us, documenting the sites of the South African Border War (1966–89) in understated black-and-white photographs. The exhibition includes three of these photographs, printed at large scale and displayed unframed, an unvarnished presentation in keeping with the seriousness of their subject matter. In the middle photograph, for example, we see mounds of dark rocks painted with five-pointed stars, in a sparse landscape of grass, bushes, and trees. To the untrained eye, they look like they could be trail markers. But as the accompanying label informs us, they are, in fact, an unmarked mass grave on the outskirts of the Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale, where some of the deadliest fighting occurred.
Azambuja’s city could not have risen at a more appropriate time. As New York celebrates the reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art in its new building, his piece calls to mind the museum’s prior home, a masterpiece of Brutalist architecture. But the ground is shifting in more than just Manhattan, as the offerings at Mana attest. Go there, and get beneath the surface.