Zwelethu Mthethwa - Photographs London Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since the end of apartheid in 1994 Mthethewa has completed several series of large-format colour portraits including Interiors (1995–2005), Sugar Cane (2003), Miners (2006–08), Mozambique/The River (2007), Brick Workers (2008) and Common Ground (2008).Influenced by memories of his mother’s storytelling tradition, these works visualize the humanity of marginalized peoples in South Africa and examine an expanding exchange between neighbouring nations. Intent upon establishing relationships with his subjects and inserting himself within their communities, Mthethwa considers his portraits as collaborations, helping to expose the integral roles such subaltern people play in society.

    Mthethwa’s portraits reveal the realities of post-apartheid labour, trade and politics with portraiture that demonstrate pride rather than evoke pity. In doing so, they occupy a place in the canon between the belatedly recognized masters of studio photography such as Seydou Keita in Mali, and the South African documentary tradition of David Goldblatt. The current lot from the Sugar Cane series (2003) is typical in its placement of the subject within the environment directly relating to the individual’s identity. This method confronts the viewer with a large scale image laden with a psychological intensity. In this particular instance, Mthethwa depicts a migrant worker in the rolling landscape which gives the worker his livelihood. Pausing from his backbreaking labour, this cane cutter, in his soiled garments, strikes an effortless pose and stares
    unapologetically at the viewer, asserting an intense pride in his work. Mthethwa elevates the cane cutter’s stature with a monumental painterly composition and with a brilliant use of colour which draws upon his early practice as a painter.


Untitled from Sugar Cane

Colour coupler print, Diasec mounted.
124.5 x 166.4 cm (49 x 65 1/2 in).
Accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity. Number 1 from an edition of 1 plus 1 artist's proof.

£6,000 - 8,000 

Sold for £7,500


19 May 2011