BOSTON, MA.- The 11th exhibition in the Institute of Contemporary Arts Momentum series features South African artist Nicholas Hlobo in his first solo presentation at a U.S. museum. Momentum examines new developments in contemporary art, inviting emerging artists from the U.S. and around the world to create new work for the ICA. Hlobo joins materialssuch as tires, lace or weathered woodinto evocative forms that play on connotations of gender, ethnicity and his South African heritage. For Momentum 11, Hlobo has developed a new, site-specific installation whose centerpiece is a large, suspended sculpture of black rubber, ribbon, and organza. The work is accompanied by his largest works-on-paper to date, and a public gallery performance on July 31. Momentum 11: Nicholas Hlobo is on view from July 30 Oct. 26, 2008.
Gender, ethnicity, and political history are just a few of the complex topics Nicholas Hlobo explores in his evocative installations, says Jill Medvedow, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. His works offer us entirely new ways to approach often difficult issues of identity and societyone of the essential roles of todays artists.
With sensitivity and wit, Hlobo harnesses the associative power of his materials, says Jen Mergel, Assistant Curator at the ICA. Weaving delicate ribbon into an old rubber inner tube, he creates provocative tensions between the physical and symbolic properties of these materials.
In his ICA exhibition, Hlobo explores universal metaphors of nourishment and strength, both mental and physical. Resembling an oversized stomach or womb, the artists sculptural installation inhabits the gallery, emphasizing the spaces role of cultural generation and sustenance. A rubber canal extends the work through an opening in the gallery wall, suggesting the wall itself to be a skin or membrane. The stitching in Hlobos sculpture is echoed in the colorful, ribbon-braided lines woven into two new 10-foot works-on-paper, as well as the costume and props for his gallery performance Thoba, utsale umnxeba. In Hlobos mother tongue, Xhosa (co-suh), the title roughly translates as to lower oneself and make a call.
For his performance on July 31, Hlobo will sit in the gallery on an African woven mat, quietly sounding a call to the space. Hlobos costumespecially created for the ICA performanceincludes a headdress of ribbons and hair extensions radiating from his head like the spokes of a wheel and fastened to the walls around him. Just as his organ-like sculpture is connected to the space, Hlobo performs his own ritual attachment to the gallery. Following the performance, Hlobos costume, sculptural props and an audio recording of his voice will become part of the exhibition.
As part of the ICAs popular teen program, Nicholas Hlobo will lead a residency with local teenagers from July 29 Aug. 1 that includes the creation of new works and discussion relating to themes addressed in the exhibition.
Nicholas Hlobo was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1975 and received his Fine Art degree from Johannesburgs Technikon Witwatersrand in 2002. Solo exhibitions of his work include Kwatsitywiziko (2008) and Izele (2006), Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town; Idioms (2007), Pei Ling Chan Gallery, Savannah College of Art and Design; and Umakadenethwa engenadyasi (2007), Extraspazio, Rome (2007). Recent group exhibitions include Home Lands Land Marks, Haunch of Venison, London (May 2008); Flow, Studio Museum Harlem (April 2008) and Turbulence: Art from South Africa, Hangart-7, Salzburg, Austria (2007). Hlobo was awarded the Tollman Award for Visual Art (2006) and has held residencies in Amsterdam and New York. Momentum 11: Nicholas Hlobo is his first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum.
Xhosa is one of 11 official languages of South Africa. The Xhosa language employs three basic click sounds, which are signaled by the letters "x," "q," and "c." Those who are not able to master the "x" click in "Xhosa" pronounce it as "co-suh" or "ho-suh."