Nicholas Hlobo: Soul
Lehmann Maupin, Seoul, South Korea21 Mar 2019 - 18 May 2019
Lehmann Maupin announced South African artist Nicholas Hlobo’s first exhibition in Seoul. The show will feature new and recent paintings by Hlobo, who has garnered acclaim for his works composed with his signature materials of ribbon, leather, wood, and rubber, employed with conceptual specificity to address complex issues of identity. Also included in the show is a new sculpture, Dyumpu (2019), made from copper piping—a new addition to his material repertoire—which is prominently featured in his current exhibition at SCAD Museum of Art in the United States.
At the core of Hlobo’s practice is the exploration of his own identity, as he attempts to ascertain qualities that exist outside of codifying labels associated with gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. In order to challenge the restrictive terminology typically used surrounding identity, Hlobo incorporates visual tropes that relate to his ethnic and cultural background, while also questioning the shifting and subjective nature inherent in these signifiers. Language and narrative specifically play both a formal and conceptual role in Hlobo’s work. As a descendent of one of South Africa’s largest indigenous communities, the Xhosa, Hlobo always titles his work in the Xhosa language, imbuing the piece with a subtle personal narrative about his experience of creating, which he often references in his titles. Hlobo titles his work in Xhosa as a way to challenge the generic term of “South African” from being used to describe his work, and also to assert the potency of his cultural identity. Moreover, this is a strategy to engage his audience in the act of cultural translation, which initiates the excavation of the works’ layered meanings.
Often, Hlobo leverages the associations weighted in specific materials—ribbons representing the feminine, leather the masculine—merging the two in his paintings like Isingxobo (2018) to pull apart this binary assimilation and present a more holistic and multifaceted approach. The elegant arcs and arabesques of the ribbon stitching are mimicked in large sculptures of molded bronze, copper, and brass instruments. In both the paintings and sculptures, the act of transforming specific materials is integral to the work. The transformation of these raw materials into a larger aesthetic form serves as a metaphor for the constructed and fluid nature of identity as well as the very act of reinvention itself. A pattern can be seen throughout Hlobo’s career that reveals his concerns with the cycle of birth, life, and death that he has consistently explored in various manners where the life cycle can be visually translated into a present object.
The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist in attendance on Thursday, March 21, at 74-18, Yulgok-ro 3-gil, from 5 to 7 PM.