Celebrating a heritage of community engagement, Johannesburg's Artist Proof Studio (APS) has assembled the retrospective exhibition "Coming of Age: 21 Years of Artist Proof Studio" [on view through July 6] at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. APS is a hybrid organization: a training center for young artists, an atelier renowned for the masterly quality of its output, and a gallery. During his remarks at the May 6 opening of "Coming of Age," William Kentridge, a participant in the exhibition, reflected, "In an imperfect world there is a moment of utopian civic goodness in the way a good print studio can work, an openness of conversation, collaboration and working together."
Co-founder and Executive Director Kim Berman recalls APS's creation amid the euphoria of Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the anticipated dismantling of apartheid. "It was that ‘Madiba [Mandela] Magic,' the Rainbow Nation," she says. After working and studying in Boston for seven years, "I was coming back to a South Africa trying to reinvent itself, and the energy was amazing, people working together and believing in a different future."
Brett Murray's exhibition "Hail to the Thief II" opened quietly at South Africa's Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg on May 10. It wasn't until Sunday, May 13, when the show was reviewed in City Press, that a public and legal commotion was set into action. The piece was illustrated with a reproduction of Murray's painting The Spear, which riffs on the style of a 1967 poster of Lenin by Soviet artist Victor Ivanov. Murray's version presents embattled President Jacob Zuma in a heroic pose and with his genitals exposed.
A cascade of angry reactions ensued. The nation's ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC), filed an emergency court injunction to have the painting removed from display; the constitutional guarantees of both an individual's right to dignity and freedom of expression were pitted against one another; a leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church called for the artist to be stoned to death; large protest marches took place in Durban, led by one of Zuma's four wives, and in Johannesburg; the art work was defaced with paint in two separate incidents on the same day, after which it was taken down; and in an unprecedented expansion of its powers the Film and Publications Board rated an artwork, restricting viewers to those 16 and older (even though the image is widely available on the Internet).
Currently on view in the group show "Redux" at New York's Cristin Tierney Gallery (through Feb. 4) are two works by Joe Fig, both related to his 200