Gallery MOMO Cape Town is proud to present 52A 7th Avenue, a group exhibition featuring work by five artists who attended the MOMO Artist Residency this year: Todd Gray, Coby Kennedy, Pedro Pires, Curtis Talwst Santiago, and Khaya Witbooi.
Established in 2006, the MOMO Artist Residency is located behind the Johannesburg gallery, at 52A 7th Avenue. With three living spaces and three spacious studios, the residency primarily houses a number of international artists and curators across multiple disciplines including visual and performing artists, writers and filmmakers. Its mission is to enable work and social engagement between international and South African artists as well as to encourage experimentation and exchange. As such, residencies are non-prescriptive and process-based, allowing visiting artists to develop projects in response to their new environment, or to conduct research. The residency has a Utopian philosophy that provides a ‘big space’ for art and creation.
Over the past year, Gallery MOMO has invited and hosted six visual artists and one dancer at the MOMO Artist Residency. 52A 7th Avenue showcases work created during the participating artists’ residency period. Spanning photography, sculpture, painting, video and installation, the works in the exhibition hint at the breadth and depth of the residency’s creative output.
Todd Gray is an American artist living and working in Los Angeles, California. Gray’s fluency in high and low culture reflects his experience as Michael Jackson’s personal photographer. His works raise questions around the cultural merit of photography as both a personal and universal method for recording history and identity, leading us to a more pointed critique of the corporate capitalization of black identity within popular culture. Gray’s image-based installations are comprised of re-contextualized photographs from his archives. Images of Michael Jackson sit upon coastal Ghanaian landscapes, his face obscured by a far panning view of the galaxies; these collisions of iconic photographs, visibly connected through found and discarded frames, provide a glimpse into the many narratives and stories, to the possibilities, that often lie dormant within the images we are familiar with. Todd Gray received both his BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Recent solo and group exhibitions include the Museum of the African Diaspora, Studio Museum in Harlem, USC Fisher Museum of Art, California African American Museum, Detroit Museum of Art, and Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, among others.
Coby Kennedy is an American artist based in New York City. Centred on issues of power, control, and privilege, Kennedy’s work scrutinises the complex conflation of capital, racist media tropes and institutional and societal violence through the lens of cyborg annihilation. Located at the intersection of science fiction tropes, pervasive oppressive history and internalised subliminal narratives, Kennedy’s works bitingly satirises the ways in which the term ‘Thug’ functions as a catch-all for young black youth in racist media narratives. By the same token, he turns a critical eye to the problematics of self-image which result from the psychological conditioning of these narratives. Coby Kennedy is a Columbia University MFA graduate, industrial conceptual designer and 2011 Skowhegan Fellow, Coby Kennedy has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, as well as in Japan, South Africa, and Europe.
Pedro Pires is an Angolan artist currently based between Lisbon and Luanda. His work addresses issues of identity and stereotypes in relation to education and institutionalisation; these issues also relate to his personal history, being torn between Angola and Portugal. He explores the relationship between the figurative and conceptual questioning of identity in different societies. Pires uses various materials, media, and everyday objects that have strong symbolism, creating a space for new relations and meanings. Pires obtained a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (London), was awarded the Fine Art Erasmus Scholarship from the University of Athens, and was recently an Artist in Residence at the Delfina Foundation.
Curtis Talwst Santiago is a Canadian-Trinidadian artist working in mixed media and performance, whose practice explores issues of transculturalism, memory, and ancestry in the contemporary diasporic experience. He is currently engaged in his ongoing and prolific infinity series of miniature dioramas in reclaimed ring boxes. An exploration across cultures and time periods, through these works Talwst aims to draw attention to absent or misinterpreted narratives, suggest the non-linear complexities of history and explore relationships between cultures. Talwst is a former apprentice of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and artist in residence at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Talwst has exhibited internationally in solo and group shows including at the New Museum, Hunter College, Savannah College of Art and Design, Fortnight Institute, the Art Gallery of Ontario and at the Studio Museum in Harlem where his work was recently acquired.
Khaya Witbooi is a South African artist, originally from Uitenhage, Eastern Cape. Khaya coined the word “pap-art” – being “pap” the traditional poor staple food in Southern Africa – to define his personal approach to contemporary art, as a self-taught artist living in the South Africa of the neoliberal, democratic era. Witbooi’s collage-style paintings, created from a combination of stenciling and spray paint on canvas, are strongly influenced by graffiti and pop art, as well as hip-hop culture and aesthetics. Interested in social critique and parody, he focuses on post-colonial and post-apartheid political tensions as well as on the paradoxes of consumerism and globalization, always conveying humor and sarcasm. Khaya is affiliated with the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) of the University of Western Cape and, from 2009 to 2016, was a resident artist at the historically renowned Greatmore Studios in Woodstock, Cape Town.