Currents 122: Meleko Mokgosi
Botswana-born artist Meleko Mokgosi creates large-scale, figurative, and often text-based paintings, drawing from the tropes of history painting and cinema to probe systems of knowledge production, the politics of representation, and the histories of democracy in conjunction with African liberation movements. His photorealistic paintings are also deeply rooted in critical theory, postcolonial studies, and research-based practices.
In Currents 122 Mokgosi will exhibit work from his new project, Spaces of Subjection. This project explores the notion of space as a metaphor, theoretical device, and social construct in order to question conventional ideas of what it means to be a subject. Mokgosi takes the concept of subjection from the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s writings of the 1980s. In essays like The Subject and Power, from 1982, Foucault contended that networks of social, political, and historical forces enact a form of subjugation that produces subjecthood. These later writings of Foucault also examine what a form of subject construction independent from these networks of social and historical relations might look like.
Like Foucault, Mokgosi uses the concept of subjection to identify the processes of becoming subordinated by power as well as of becoming a subject. The works in this exhibition showcase Mokgosi’s approach to this conceptual framework. New monochromatic figurative paintings will be situated alongside large-scale pigment transfers featuring text and images from Epaminondas and His Auntie, the popular children’s book by Sara Cone Bryant published in 1911.
Mokgosi is an associate professor and codirector of graduate studies at the Yale School of Art Painting and Printmaking department and codirector of the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program. He is the recipient of the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellowship, which includes this exhibition, following a residency at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.
Currents 122: Meleko Mokgosi is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, and Molly Moog, research assistant for modern and contemporary art. The exhibition is supported in part by the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Endowment Fund.