Zwelethu Mthethwa
Lines of Negotiation

by Andries Loots - 10 March 2004

( detail ) 2003,  Chromogenic print, 59"x 76,5" 
© Zwelethu Mthethwa, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

Only a handful South African artist's have become regulars on the International art calendar and have had the honor of becoming part of the invited participants by International curators. Regarding the Photographic Triennial of the International Centre of Photography in New York, which had its inaugural show in November 2003,  there is fierce competition for participation. To be one of the 40 invited artists from 20 countries is an honour and it means that recognition is given of what the artist has achieved in photography.South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa was invited to participate in this prestigious event.

Although Zwelethu has been undertaking photography for the last 10 years the International curators have always recognized him also for his progression from his typical township interiors,  which sparked his career in photography. During 2003, Zwelethu participated in numerous exhibitions in Switzerland (
Art Basel), Artists Space in Manhattan, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio where he had a solo show entitled Interior Portraits : Zwelethu Mthethwa.

There is a great deal of excitement about his Sugar Cane Series. The series depicts sugar cane field workers in their working surroundings, some posing, clenching their machetes in their soot blackened hands like Samurai warriors with an expression of fulfillment as they triumph over the cane fields. The images provide a glimpse into their world and portray an intense relationship between the workers and their harsh working conditions where layered clothing must shield them from the dirt from the burnt sugar cane. 

This series which has not been displayed as a single body of work before, will now be shown for the first time by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. Jack had numerous shows in the past of Zwelethu's work and it was favourably reviewed at the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003. From here some of the work were shown at Art Basel, Miami and were snapped up by collectors. The recognition that Zwelethu received for his participation in the ICP Triennial exhibition, called Strangers,  in 2003 however puts him among the world's leading photographers like Cindy Sherman,  Nan Goldin, Thomas Ruff,  Rineke Dijkstra, Shirin Neshat, Vanessa Beecroft and Wolfgang Tillmans to name but a few.

The opening of Zwelethu’s Solo Exhibition called, Lines of Negotiation at the Jack Shainman Gallery will be on 18 March and will run till 17 April 2004. The exhibition will feature the Sugar Cane works. 

Contact details :
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011
Tel : 212 645 1701

Fax : 212 645 8316

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