This fall Honor Fraser is presenting the final show in the series Democratic Intuition started by artist Meleko Mokgosi in 2013. Throughout the series the artist has taken traditional Western subject matter and techniques and put them through a filter to show the limitations of their methods in depicting the African body and culture. In this final exhibition still lifes are the chosen subject matter.

Gone, however, are the vases of flowers and strategically placed fruit on the table. The still lifes here depict magazines, photographs and posters – items emblematic of contemporary life in Africa. Varying in size, the paintings are hung systematically throughout the galleries. These works likely force the average viewer to reconsider what they think of when they think of still lifes – and that is the point. It highlights how skewed art history is, and how our general understanding of art has favored the Western canon.

This act of reconsidering the subject matter further strengthens Mokgosi’s thesis of critiquing the presentation of art in museums, which has also favored Western artists. To research this body of work the artist looked into the Museum of Modern Art’s archives, specifically the exhibitions “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern (1984) and Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life (1997). In exhibitions such as these (those that have labeled African art “primitive” and without its own history and merit), the art of Africa has been belittled and in a way continues to be viewed through the eyes of colonialism. Through his work Mokgosi is questioning the legitimacy of museums such as the  MOMA due to their lack of inclusiveness of other cultures.

At the core of Mokgosi’s work is the even distribution of wealth and power; he uses subject matter that is traditional in the Western art canon to illustrate that we must reevaluate how our society understands and views democracy through art.

Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life is on view October 20, 2018 – December 19, 2018 at Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles.

– Erika Barbosa

Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life, 2018 Installation view, Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles