The title positions this exhibition as an alternative to an ‘either/or’ way of thinking, making room for a point of view that is multiple, mutable and inclusive. At its core, Stevenson has always been dedicated to art history and current discourse – a place for ideas. At the same time, the gallery has remained a place of commerce. A question that has been pivotal throughout the years is ‘how can we be both committed to art history, and fully engaged with the market?’ The curators set out to navigate this apparent paradox in their approach to the show.
Both, and takes place across Stevenson’s Cape Town and Johannesburg locations. The exhibition spills over into the private and administrative spaces within both galleries, which will be accessible to the public for the duration of the show. It features new and existing works by current gallery artists, by old friends, and by new acquaintances. True to its theme, some works are new to the marketplace, others re-enter it and others exist apart from it.
The Johannesburg iteration begins outside with Guy Tillim, whose large-scale photographs of Joburg and Harare cityscapes – from his series Museum of the Revolution – are installed on the exterior walls, greeting visitors and commuters passing over Nelson Mandela Bridge. The works’ scale and form mimic the advertising that covers many of the buildings in these cities, while their content mirrors the gallery’s immediate urban environment.
A spatial intervention by Serge Alain Nitegeka disrupts the entrance of the gallery. Using wood and paint, the artist blurs the boundary between architecture and painting. He invites us to imagine alternative ways of navigating, occupying and understanding space – a common thread throughout the exhibition.
Zander Blom’s photographic series, The Drain of Progress (2004-07), captures installations produced in the artist’s home in Brixton, and reveals the origins of his playful engagement with the art-historical canon. Two images from this project were shown in Disguise, the inaugural exhibition in Stevenson’s Woodstock space, in 2009 – the first time Blom exhibited with the gallery. For Both, and, four previously unpublished images from the series are presented in Johannesburg.
Meschac Gaba presents a found installation titled Zimbabwe Survival. Since the start of his relationship with Stevenson in 2006, Gaba has made regular visits to Cape Town. During one of these, he discovered the metal birds installed in relation to a cash bowl at a roadside curio market. For him this symbolised the complex relationships between art, craft, migration and commerce that he had previously explored in Museum of Contemporary African Art (1997-2002), elements of which were exhibited on Documenta XI and played a catalytic role in the founding of the gallery after two of Stevenson’s directors saw them there.
Also offering commentary on objecthood and value is Penny Siopis’ ongoing Will installation. Begun in 1997, this roving collection of objects, bequeathed to individuals around the world, only becomes activated on the artist’s death. Artefacts are experienced both as art and heirloom, representing different values for those who possessed the objects before the artist acquired them, and those who receive them in the future.
Francis Alÿs is represented here with The art of working and the work of art. This piece, initially staged in Mexico City in 2010, involves an action in which local banknotes are transformed into small origami animal shapes, and then sold on a busy street corner – in this case near Park Station in Johannesburg – for the value of the banknote itself. A photo souvenir of this action is then made into a postcard which is distributed freely at the gallery. The artwork encourages viewers to question the nature of and value attributed to the artist’s labour in the making of art.
Robin Rhode’s Black Tie is also a meditation on artistic labour, combining the autographic mark made by the artist with a set of photographic mediations. Rhode’s photo series from 2003, the year Stevenson opened its doors, shows the artist making a charcoal drawing of a black tie on his white shirt. Like the founders of the gallery, Rhode manifests a simple idea, making something out of nothing.
Local art publication Adjective’s Toy Machine, a refurbished crane claw, has given people the chance to ‘win’ artworks by local artists at art fairs. Here it offers visitors the opportunity to ‘pick up’ copies of the gallery’s publications. Both Adjective’s presence in the show, and the catalogues that can be won, playfully draw attention to Stevenson’s commitment to publishing and criticism.
Other artists featured in Johannesburg include Simon Gush, Dada Khanyisa, Moshekwa Langa, Meleko Mokgosi, Odili Donald Odita, Bogosi Sekhukhuni and Paul Mpagi Sepuya.