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A BLACK AESTHETIC: A View of South African Artists (1970 – 1990)

The Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg presents A Black Aesthetic: A View of South African Artists (1970 – 1990), an exhibition that draws from the University of Fort Hare Art Collection. Presented for the first time outside of the Eastern Cape since 1992, the Collection features one of the country’s largest holdings of Black South African artists working between the period of 1970 and 1990, leading to the first democratic elections in 1994 and thereafter.

Standard Bank Gallery Black Aesthetic Cyprian Mpho Shilakoe
Cyprian Mpho Shilakoe, The Survivors, 1969. Aquatint, etching. 38,5 x 31 cm. Johannesburg Art Gallery Collection

Representing over 150 creatives and declared a national cultural treasure in 1998, this repository houses some of South Africa’s most revered artists such as Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba, Dumile Feni and Gladys Mgudlandlu, to name a few; and includes a wide range of disciplines such as etchings, woodcuts, linocuts, serigraphs, drawings, paintings and sculptures.
     A Black Aesthetic: A View of South African Artists (1970 – 1990), curated by Standard Bank Gallery Manager and Curator Dr Same Mdluli, features the work of Black artists from various backgrounds whose style and approach to art-making are distinctly their own. Aiming to encourage a more critical engagement with these artists whose works have historically been neglected, A Black Aesthetic attempts to reposition their expression within the larger South African art historical narrative and redefine ways of discussing their work – challenging existing notions of what constitutes South African art history. The exhibition also examines the contentious label of ‘township art’, a term that has been critiqued for its limitations in labelling and boxing Black artists from these locales.

Standard Bank Gallery Black Aesthetic Louis Khehla Maqhubela
Louis Khehla Maqhubela, Untitled, 1971. Mixed media on paper. 50 x 72 cm. Fort Hare University Art Collection

     From resistance art to abstraction and scenes of everyday life, with artworks depicting both hardships and optimism, A Black Aesthetic shows work from three decades of the Collection; part of an era in the country characterised by challenging conditions that existed under colonial and apartheid South Africa – with the after effects still felt today. ‘These works are a great record of painful experiences, memories, and stories of Black people in apartheid,’ says University of Fort Hare’s National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre Curator Vuyani Booi.
     A Black Aesthetic: A View of South African Artists (1970 – 1990) is on show at Standard Bank Gallery until 18 April 2019.
     The Standard Bank Gallery – located on the corner of Simmonds and Frederick Streets in central Johannesburg – offers free, safe undercover parking on the corner of Harrison and Frederick Streets. Gallery hours: Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:20 and Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00. Entrance to the exhibition is free.
     Walkabout Dates: 9, 16 and 30 March and 6 April. All walkabouts will start at 11:00.

To read more about A Black Aesthetic, purchase the March 2018 issue of Creative Feel, or to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine in print or digital format from only R180.00 per year.