Gelatin silver print 44 x 44 cm.
Team leader (left) and mine captain (right) on a pedal car, Rustenburg Platinum Mine, Rustenburg, 1971 Gelatin silver print 44 x 44 cm.
Image: David Goldblatt / Norval Foundation

February brings with it mixed blessings when it comes to art exhibitions – sometimes galleries start the year with a bang and sometimes the exhibitions are an odd assortment of bits and bobs they’ve pulled together. In the mix this February are three you absolutely cannot miss…

1. ECSTATIC ARCHIVE: GERHARD MARX

After a break of nearly a decade, when he drifted away from his formative work with maps, Gerhard Marx resumed his unique “map drawings” about two years ago and this exhibition is the culmination of his new re-engagement with cartography. By taking decommissioned maps, and with a deep understanding of their cultural meaning, he snips them up and uses their fragments to reconstitute them as something new.

Reconfigured Map fragments on Acrylic-Polyurethane Ground and Canvas. Work: 100 x 770 cm. Unique.
Agglomerate, 2018 Reconfigured Map fragments on Acrylic-Polyurethane Ground and Canvas. Work: 100 x 770 cm. Unique.
Image: Gerhard Marx / Goodman Gallery

This time around, Marx has concentrated on using the borders or frames of the maps to “draw” with. He has reworked them to create strange, mind-bending spatial representations and complex geometries that trick the eye with Escher-like illusions to produce something map-like that reconfigures our relationship with territories, landscapes and even our own bodies.

“[W]hat was far comes near, the here is there, the distant is intimate, the solid dissolves and the bordered leaks,” he says of the strange spatial realm he has invented in his artworks. “Everything can be present all the time, but everything is migrant, layered, and dense.”

Reconfigured Map fragments on Acrylic-Polyurethane Ground and Canvas. Work: 60 x 50 cm. Unique.
Laminate Landscape 1, 2018 Reconfigured Map fragments on Acrylic-Polyurethane Ground and Canvas. Work: 60 x 50 cm. Unique.
Image: Gerhard Marx / Goodman Gallery

The images he creates represent a unique and powerful exploration of the kinds of spaces created in a globalised world, in contemporary cities and in the realm of the digital.

- See Ecstatic Archive: Gerhard Marx at the Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, January 26 2019 – March 9 2019

2. NEW PAINTINGS:  ZANDER BLOM

Oil on linen 95 x 61cm.
Figure (Paulo en costume d’Arlequin), 2019 Oil on linen 95 x 61cm.
Image: Zander Blom. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Zander Blom’s exhibition New Paintings at the Stevenson is his first showing in the Johannesburg gallery since 2013. He has dedicated a large part of his career to experimenting with the possibilities of creating a new pictorial language, largely playing around with the language of European abstraction, strange figurations and other experimental forms, but has never really abandoned the fundamental tools of paint and canvas and “an endless infatuation and frustration with painting and mark-making – a stubborn, impatient desire to will paint into a compelling composition or expression of some sort”.

With this group of works, made up of fragments collaged together on stretched canvases or loosely strung on washing lines, he continues with painting as his primary medium and his fascination with “the modernism shtick”.

He describes the works as “dragon-rat-bird-dog-humanoid mutations, nonsensical lighthearted nightmarish bullshit”. But he sees them as describing a rare moment of artistic liberation that he has “embrace[d] and mine[d] … for all it is worth”. The result is a provisional burst of artistic energy – an affirmation of his faith in his medium and mission, and an admission to its endless cycles of exhilaration, failure and renewal.

Oil on linen 122 x 92cm.
The Picasso in Chicago, 2019 Oil on linen 122 x 92cm.
Image: Zander Blom. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
Oil on linen 174 x 120cm.
Untitled (smears), 2019 Oil on linen 174 x 120cm.
Image: Zander Blom. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

- See New Paintings:  Zander Blom at the Stevenson Johannesburg, February 2 2019 – March 22 2019

3. ON THE MINES: DAVID GOLDBLATT

Before he died last year, David Goldblatt, one of the grandest of the grand old men of South African photography, helped conceptualise this exhibition. For the first time ever, it brings together a series of 85 photographs of the gold mines and surrounding communities that made up the 1973 book of the same title. The book – and the exhibition –include text by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, a close friend of Goldblatt’s who, like him, grew up on the East Rand of Gauteng surrounded by mines, and so understood them intimately.

Gelatin silver print. 45 x 30 cm.
“Boss Boy” detail, Battery Reef, Randfontein Estates Gold Mine, 1966 Gelatin silver print. 45 x 30 cm.
Image: David Goldblatt / Norval Foundation
Gelatin silver print. 44 x 31 cm.
Masotho shaftsinking Machine Man, President Steyn No. 4, welkom, 1969 Gelatin silver print. 44 x 31 cm.
Image: David Goldblatt / Norval Foundation

Apart from the rare opportunity to see the photographs that went into On the Mines together, it’s a wonderful opportunity to re-examine the people, politics, power and poignance in this series of photographs – to understand the mines and what they represented as the engine of the South African economy as seen through the quiet, dispassionate, but preternaturally attuned, eye of Goldblatt.

Gelatin silver print. 46 x 46 cm.
Novice mineworker from the Transkei, in the Fanakolo school, Hartebeesfontein Gold Mine, Welkom, 1972 Gelatin silver print. 46 x 46 cm.
Image: David Goldblatt / Norval Foundation

Chief curator Owen Martin says, “Goldblatt’s contribution to South African visual culture transformed documentary photography in the country through an observational style that rigorously engaged with the social issues of his lifetime.” And beyond.

- See On the Mines: David Goldblatt at The Norval Foundation, February 13 2019 –August 11 2019

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