Tracey Rose | Waiting for God
What makes her so marvellous? What makes her work so vital, so powerful, so poignant, so present day? What it boils down to is simplicity itself. Communication with others, for she is a facilitator for creativity: selflessly allowing others to be creative all around her and this is intoxicating. Her foul language is justified and even expected as she hides behind the guises and disguises of Art; she becomes the art and generously allows herself to be herself with the humps and bumps of her lady lumps, she is so exciting. Her show is creating a buzz all around the world - from Jo’burg to NY to London to Sydney. The global artistic community are anticipating a show of such ferociousness with excitement that is Tracey’s evocative disruption that has yet been seen in this rather conservative post Apartheid South Africa.
This show is a milestone; a mid-career celebration of making it thus far and still being able to sustain a voice of reason and creating an atmosphere of stimulating anticipation. The work is 15 years in the making and puts Tracey firmly on the map as an international super Artist. Live performance art, poetry, scratches, scribbles and sketches, photography and video artistry – all, are the make-up of this long awaited solo show. No Gallerist or opportunist can box or ‘pigeon-hole’ this artist as no genre of art has yet been assigned for her and her work to casually and politely fall into: for she is the art itself, as she stands clearly outside the boundaries of containablity. She is a true punk in a punk-less world as she bites the hands that feed her and still the masochists come back for more. To be accepted by the established art world is, in itself, a paradoxical phenomenon however somehow she seems to have maintained infancy innocence through into her adulthood – eternal youthfulness of knowing and not knowing; enquiring: constantly and intelligently exploring. Her art has humour in bucket loads and to see the body of her work leaves the viewer walking out with a Cheshire cat smile from ear to ear. Rumours circulate about her antics of her goings on, with her goings out – Nights on the town with the likes of Godfried Donkor, a giant of a man, who quakes in his boots when Tracey starts drinking; she is a force to behold even in her day to day. In interview she is a warrior princess with her unique and complex jet set agenda defining her job as the fighter against the established labels of expedient complacency. The labels of our time like: Feminism and Catholicism: Capitalism and Consumerism all these and more are under the Traceyscope.
Her work to date has been an inspiration for a generation. Back in 2001 with “The Kiss” as seen in an exhibition entitled “Decade of Democracy”, a black and white photograph inspired by Rodin, puts a black man finally in the picture; firmly placing the South African underdog in the driving seat for the first time. Changing the perception of those downtrodden in days gone by. The aftershock of this exhibition created or encouraged confidence in other artists (black artists, specifically), to have the audacity and bravery to play amongst the untouchables: the European Masters and see themselves as equals. The present day artistic call to arms echoes her sentiment from the Naughties and black artists across the globe are now eager to wedge themselves between the sheets of the history books of art worldwide. In the series entitled “Lucie’s fer” 2003 (Lucipher), the artist investigates and cross-examines the actual existence of the devil and questions the very nature of our childish fear of evil. The work comprises of eight photographic images with an accompanying video with no reference to Adam’s rib and Eve becomes Lucie; as the artist takes us on a journey into fact or fiction, myth and deceit. The aptly titled Lucie’s Fur is a reference to Gustave Courbet - L’Origine du Monde and the work explores lust and desire and discards the myth and the ridiculous story of the stork and the baby; boldly stating the true nature of how we came to being. Pulling back the curtain once more, dispelling and unashamedly shattering, our cosy ways of thinking.
In late 2005/6 Tracey created a project in the ghetto of the Capital, in a place known as Zombie town on the outskirts of Jo’burg. Here lies the Riverlea Extension, an area of extreme creativity and seemingly acceptable poverty. The workshop accidentally manifested itself from Christmas carol-singer with her father and she returned to the community is search of working with those less fortunate. She combines her zest for life with enthusiastic feral kids in the community and she found working with the children a life changing experience. No stone was left unturned as she explores the vortex of the young South African. The work speaks for itself, as it’s playful and fun with that edginess of the unpredictability that weaves constantly through her work. Her video work pulls no punches and in the Cockpit Tracey examines and scrutinizes themes such as misery, intolerance and hatred and not content with that, she then has 12 women over for dinner in the “Last Supper”. The real showstopper is the central piece and to many Tracey’s Masterpiece. Shocking but with clear intent, she points her finger and ironically mocks the survival of London’s Tate Modern. Standing over the river Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance, wearing the Great British flag as stockings. She crouches down on golden boots with leopard skin inlay; she lifts up her red mini-skirt with the union jack wrapped around her body and with a hook on her left hand she spreads her lips to piss. Pissing on the table at the members lounge at the prestigious Tate Modern, clearly expressing just how she feels about the Young British Artists. She metaphorically throws a poisonous arrow right at the heart of the art world with the title: For King and Cunt. The taboo artist may well be dismissed by the conventional art lover, but her work to date can hardly be ignored. Tracey Rose is a true South African Modernist over and above her contemporaries. Her work excites, fearlessly shocks and triggers the imagination. Yet again she has successfully expanded the ever-increasing concept of Art.
The show beings on the Sunday 20th February at the Johannesburg Art Gallery at 4pm
The exhibition is curated by Khwesi Gule and Renaud Proch and co-produced by the Johannsbury Art Gallery and Bildmuseet Umea University, Sweden.
Author: Joe Pollitt
About the artist
Tracey Rose was born in 1974 in Durban, and currently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She received her B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1996, and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, UK, in 2007. In 2006, she was named one of the 50 greatest cultural figures coming out of Africa by the newspaper The Independent, London, UK.
Rose has exhibited in South Africa, Europe and North America, including solo presentations at the South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2001); La Panaderia, Mexico City, Mexico (2001); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2006); and MC, Los Angeles, USA (2008). Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions over the years, and most notably in Graft, Trade Routes History and Geography, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, South African National Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (1997); Videodrome, The New Museum, New York, NY (1999); Plateau de l'humanite, 49thVenice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2001); Africa Remix, (traveling) The Haywood Gallery, London, United Kingdom; Centre George Pompidou, Paris, France; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2005); Masquerade: Representations and the Self in Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2006); Mouth Open, Teeth Showing: Major Works from the True Collection, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, USA (2007); Memories of Modernity, Malmö Art Museum, Malmö, Sweden (2007); and Global Feminisms, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2007).
Rose participated in international artists’ residencies including ArtPace, San Antonio, Texas, USA (2000) and KHOJ International Artists Workshop, Vasind, India (2005), and Doual’Art, Douala, Cameroon (2010).