HARLEM, NY.- The first New York museum exhibition of South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa (b. 1960, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) brings together three compelling series: Interiors and Empty Beds document the domestic lives of migrant workers in and near Johannesburg, South Africa, while photographs in Common Ground focus on shared experiences of natural disaster in urban areas, featuring houses in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana and on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, after wildfires.
Though his photographs are documentary in nature, Mthethwa consciously works against documentary conventions. Mthethwa presumes no objectivity toward his subjects, considering portraiture a form of collaboration between sitter and photographer. Originally trained as a painter, the artist adopts several formal and aesthetic features of paintinglarge-scale, careful composition, rich color tones and staged posesin his highly stylized photographs.
Together, these images offer intimate access to otherwise private space. They also reference loss and longing, particularly the voids left in rural areas when workers migrate to cities. All the works exhibit a sense of how social change and natural disasters, as well as the publics responses to them, impress upon the domestic sphere. Organized by Associate Curator Naomi Beckwith, Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Views continues the Studio Museums commitment to the presentation of contemporary work by international artists of African descent.
On July 15 at 7pm, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Naomi Beckwith will speak about the work in Inner Views in a special public program in the Museum Theatre, followed by a signing of Zwelethu Mthethwa, published by Aperture and available at the Museum Store for $55.00 / Member Price: $46.75.