Artists in Dialogue II:
Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira
Dates: February 2, 2011 – December 4, 2011
Exhibition Description: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) is organizing the exhibition, “Artists in Dialogue: Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira,” as the second in a series of exhibitions in which exciting artists (at least one of whom is African) are invited to a new encounter – one in which each artist responds to the work of the other, and resulting in original, site-specific works at the museum. The exhibition will also include a selection of works by each artist to reflect who they are coming into the encounter, and will be accompanied by a small, full-color publication.
The first exhibition in this series featured the works of António Ole of Angola and Aimé Mpane of Congo. Based in neighboring nations, each of these artists created works deeply indebted to their sense of place and use of materials. In this second installation of the series, two artists from different continents – Henrique Oliveira of Brazil and Sandile Zulu of South Africa – are asked to continue their imaginative extensions of the canvas – “painting” with such unlikely materials as driftwood and fire to create new work, each inspired by the other. In so doing, traditional artistic notions of surface and materials are challenged at the same time that audiences are inspired to consider provocative ecological and societal issues and see how materials and concepts unite diverse individuals, cultures and places.
South African artist Sandile Zulu received his Bachelors of Fine Arts with Honors from Johannesburg’s prestigious University of Witwatersrand in 1993. Since then, his two and three dimensional works have been featured in prominent international exhibitions from South Africa to New York, Atlanta, Paris, and London. Best known for his canvases in which he manipulates fire, water, earth and air, his charged creations defy traditional concepts of painting. His works are grounded in ritual and infused with political and ecological meaning. Seductive patterns flicker across canvas panels and two dimensional surfaces erupt into tufted rhythms of burned grasses, barbed wire and crackling layers of newsprint. In each work, the notion of the surface is transformed. These works also poetically draw attention to the blighted landscape of South Africa’s underprivileged citizens and challenge us to recognize and utilize the constructive power of such destructive forces as fire. In recent years, Zulu has also undertaken work in new media such as print-making and installation. The National Museum of African Art looks forward to placing this innovative multi-media artist in dialogue with rising star Henrique Oliveira in order to highlight the important contributions of African and South American artists to the world of art and such current debates as environmental resource management and the human capacity for change.
Based in Sao Paolo, Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira is little known in the United States. This is soon to change. His extraordinary “canvases” – walls “painted” with undulating waves of colored and bent driftwood – are simply put, stunning. At once recalling the aesthetic splendor of Abstract Expressionist canvases, the technical sophistication of ship building, and the societal and environmental issues related to resource management, Oliveira’s work will both captivate new audiences and resonate profoundly with the works of South Africa’s Sandile Zulu. The National Museum of African Art is thrilled to introduce this emerging talent to new audiences. Born in 1973 and already exhibited on three continents, this artist is sure to be a sensation.