Finally got around to posting some installation views, opening pics and walkabout shots (the latter via Kalashnikovv Gallery’s Instagram). White Masks coincided with Ayanda Mabulu’s hard hitting show Concerning Violence – an inspired pairing by the Gallery’s curators MJ Turpin and Matthew Dean. I loved the dialogue between the two bodies of work.

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Opening night White Masks Richardt Strydom at Kalashnikovv Gallery with Ayanda Mabulu's hard hitting Concerning Violence exhibition seen in the back.

Opening night White Masks Richardt Strydom at Kalashnikovv Gallery with Ayanda Mabulu’s Concerning Violence show exhibition seen in the back. I was in Berlin on the opening night, so many thanks to Francois Lion-Cachet for the pics.

Richardt Strydom White Masks opening night at Kalashnikovv Gallery

Richardt Strydom White opening night Kalashnikovv Gallery

Richardt Strydom White Masks and Ayanda Mabulu Concerning violence walkabout at Richardt Strydom White opening night Kalashnikovv Gallery invite

Installation view of White Masks Richardt Strydom at Kalashnikovv Gallery with Ayanda Mabulu's hard hitting Concerning Violence exhibition seen in the back

Kalashnikovv Gallery: White Masks exhibition view with Ayanda Mabulu’s hard hitting Concerning Violence show seen in the back

Richardt Strydom and Ayanda Mabulu exhibition view at Kalashnikovv Gallery

Richardt Strydom White Masks and Ayanda Mabulu Concerning violence walkabout

Richardt Strydom White Masks and Ayanda Mabulu Concerning violence walkabout

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‘I survived…’ was an unofficial performance at the opening of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, Newtown, Johannesburg, 10 Oct 1997.

The performance entailed the illegal hawking of signed copies of these t-shirts inside and outside the main Biennale venues, MuseumAfrica and Electric Workshop, on the opening night. The performance was part of my contribution to the ’50 Stories’ fringe exhibition curated by Tracey Rose and Storm Janse Van Rensburg. Inside each folded t-shirt was a postcard invite to the ’50 Stories’ show held in the top floor space of the Carlton Centre in central Johannesburg.

(This picture is a recent take with original t-shirt)

By Shandukani Mulaudzi

There is great power in self-reflection. It is defined as the ability to look into yourself, to introspect and to learn more about what informs who you are. It is simpler to see the scars and afflictions of other people than it is to see our own because self-reflection requires us to look in the mirror and really hone in on both the beautiful and ugly parts of who we are.Richardt Strydom kingpinWe live in masks. There are the masks we make for ourselves and wear to avoid being exposed to society’s criticism and then there are the masks our upbringings slowly mould for us. These masks are difficult to shed because they become such a big part of our identity. They become a part of us, a perfect fit and the skin we are comfortable in.

The power of Richardt Strydom’s “White Masks” is the very personal journey of removing the masks white masculinity wears and often hides behind. His, is an honest and vulnerable look at the white Afrikaner male mask he grew up with. It is an exploration of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa and looks specifically at violent hypermasculinity and sexuality.

There is something very striking about Strydom’s exhibition. The images are a shock to the system.  At first glance, they invoke feelings of sadness, fear and disgust. What is most important, however, is how the portraits draw you in and implore you to inspect them further.Observer Richardt StrydomWhat you see then, is the deep scarring of gendered and racial ideologies on the individual psyche.

There is a deliberateness in the selection of how the masks manifest. Scars, bruises, open flesh wounds, patched up sores, exposed tissue, chained genitalia and abnormal growths. Our masks are so deeply entrenched part in who we are that getting rid of them is not an easy process – Strydom rips off the plaster to expose the horror of festering sores.

Not only does Strydom explore the pain of removing the masks, he examines the violent masculinity that comes with keeping them on. He does this by depicting some of the young men in the portraits with hand gestures shaped like guns that point into their mouths and under their throats.

A conversation on violence and hyper masculinity can never shy away from examining the relationship between the idea of “being a man” and how this relates to “sexuality”. This is something often taught in the home. The inclusion of the “chastity begins at home” piece is stark in this body of work. The in-your-face depiction of crushed male testicles is horrific. The sexuality of young men is often so restricted and results in many of them having no breathing room to find themselves and denying who they are for a very long time.

Chastity begins at home Richardt Strydom

Strydom leaves no stone unturned in this exhibition and his work calls for the viewer of the art to not only engage with his reflection of self, but with their own too.

White Masks is a solo exhibition by Richardt Strydom on show at Kalashnikovv Gallery from 7 – 23 June 2018. 

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Shandukani Mulaudzi holds a Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate from The University of the Witwatersrand and #UCKAR. After an eventful career in journalism, working for titles like HuffPost South Africa, City Press, Finweek and YOU magazine, she ventured into the wonderful world of brand communications.

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Since leaving my academic position just over three years ago, I’ve not been engaging in writing about my practice. Practice in itself had to take a bit of a backseat, as I adjusted to new contexts and routines. I missed being creative both in making and writing, so having taken a self-impose creative sabbatical, I decided to set up an artist page on Facebook. I have been, and still am quite sceptical as to the platform and the effectiveness of such pages and their function for visual artists, but I found that it provided a platform for writing about my practice again – and it’s been nice.

Here is post I did recently, which I enjoyed both reflecting on and writing:

It might be because brand image wasn’t yet such a big industry in the late 90s – but more likely, with apartheid censorship so fresh in everyone’s minds, society was wilfully not as conservative as a decade later when ‘Familieportret 2’ caused a ruckus for its allegorical references to canonical textbook depictions of Western idealised beauty.

‘Untitled: enemata (from the domestic comforts series)’ received a Sasol New Signatures Merit award in 1997, despite clearly showing a rather compromising shot of an anus and erect male member on one half of the modified found sculpture. As alluded to by the title, the work refers to the not so charming boereraad that prescribes a lukewarm soapy enema to alleviate stubborn constipation. Juxtaposed with an Afrikaner Nationalist propaganda painting by W. H. Coetzer on the partner piece, the work proposes, in a tongue in cheek manner, a DIY cure for a ‘verkakte’ ideological mindset.

Shown here are contextual shots that place the sculpture in a white working class kitchen, to draw attention to more serious intertextual relationships and intersections of race, labour, privilege and agency.

At the time I held a part time job lecturing almost anything in the curriculum nobody else wanted to do, because I wanted to be a ‘working’ artist. I ended up spending more time working to make a living with very little time or energy left for making art. In the end even this particular artwork fell victim to those circumstances and was eventually used for its utilitarian content – for washing dishes. At the time, I convinced myself that in Duchampian terms the work was then finally complete.

 

Link to FB page here

BISM, a limited edition book, hand made and curated by Belinda Blignaut as part of the exhibition A SHOT TO THE ARSE (2012) was recently included on Booknesses: Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection, held at University of Johannesburg Art Gallery and ran from 25 March till 5 May 2017.

BISM, served as part document, part manifesto to A SHOT TO THE ARSE, and includes artifacts, remnants and a number of signed original works by some of the participating artists.

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection

My contribution to BISM were 10 different pencil and gouache altered photographic print on cotton paper for each of the 10 limited edition copies, and sheet music from my work Die lied van jong Suid Afrika

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection curated by Belinda Blignaut incl. work by Richardt Strydom

A SHOT TO THE ARSE, also curated by Blignaut, included works by Stuart Bird, Belinda Blignaut, Jan-Henri Booyens, Breinskade, Kris Canavan, Steven Cohen, Jesse Darling, Simmi Dullay, Ediblspaceships, Kendell Geers, Gabrielle Goliath, Dean Hutton, Jimmy Kipple Sound, Christian Nerf, Panga Management, Daniel Rourke, Athi-Patra Ruga, Wilhelm Saayman, Richardt Strydom, Linda Stupart, David Tallis, James Webb, Vanskrum, Konrad Welz, and Roger Young.

See also: artist book by Richardt Strydom and Jaco Burger, Ad Hominem.

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Please join me for a walkabout of Bleek, Saturday 16 July at 15:00, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Cnr Klein and King George Streets, Joubert Park. 

Turbine Art Fair will also be in full swing just a few blocks away, so make an art day of it in the city.

Read catalogue essay by Dr. Christi van der Westhuizen here.

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‘BLEEK’ encompasses a number of photographic series that sets out to interrogate the performance of white masculinity from different points of entry. Masochistic violence and self-interrogation are recurring themes in the body of work. Strydom is especially interested in the manner different traditions and contexts are embodied in particular power rituals.

The historically hegemonic position of whiteness makes it difficult to comprehend the notion of a marginal whiteness. The difficulty to articulate a non-hegemonic whiteness often leads to uncertainty and suspicion. A public questioning of whiteness may pose a dilemma since whiteness, even in a postcolonial context, retains its hegemonic status and prestige that might serve to perpetuate what Mohanty calls ‘the white man as spectacle’.

This notion of whiteness as spectacle has led to the artist’s personal interest to examine and make visible the strategies used in the performance of postcolonial whiteness in the South African context.

(Press release)

Installation views: