Meleko Mokgosi (2016)

Editor: Kathleen Massara

Meleko Mokgosi’s enigmatic history paintings are hardly new to the international circuit. Within the last five years, the artist has shown at the Hammer in Los Angeles, Art Basel in Miami Beach, and the Lyon Biennale in France. Tonight at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea, Mokgosi marks his New York debut with two hotly-anticipated shows: “Democratic Intuition: Lerato” and “Democratic Intuition: Comrades II.”

A week before the opening, I ventured over to Shainman’s 20th Street location, with recorder and notebook in hand. Mokgosi was in the middle of install, and within a minute of arriving on scene, he gave me a gentle push away from the ground-floor exhibition space and we walked down the stairs to the basement, where prints by Richard Mosse hang (another artist in Shainman’s stable). Curious gallery assistants and art handlers shuffled to and from the back offices, stealing glances from time to time.

When I told him I’d be recording the conversation, Mokgosi swiftly, albeit politely, insisted against it. “Sometimes,” he said, “my words are taken out of context.” (The admission was fair, but it left me wondering how Interview Magazine‘s Matt Mullen was able to capture his studio visit).

Broadly speaking, Mokgosi’s precaution with misinformation mimics a central problem his projects grapple with: “the difficulty of cultural translation,” as artist Malik Gaines once put it. But with little more than past works, previous interviews, and what I could glean from an obtuse exhibition statement, the nature of my questions had few other places to turn beyond, well, him.

Read the full review on artnet News.