JOHANNESBURG – South African artist, Sam Nhlengethwa’s exhibition, Kind Of Blue opens at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, on Thursday 26 August 2010, 18h00 and runs till 9 September 2010.
In this solo exhibition of new drawings, prints and paintings at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, Sam Nhlengethwa pays homage to trumpeter and composer Miles Davis and celebrates the recent 50th anniversary of his groundbreaking album Kind of Blue. The record, which is universally known as one of the most influential and best-selling jazz albums of all time, has been as significant in South Africa as it has been everywhere else.
Described by many musicians and music-lovers as a bible – “something everybody owns” – Kind of Blue could be found in the record collections of everyone Nhlengethwa knew growing up. “When I was a youngster,” the artist reflects, “on Sundays when people were relaxing, from street to street people would sit with a portable vinyl player listening to Miles Davis.” And, he says “unlike with the other vinyl’s where we picked tracks, Kind of Blue was played repeatedly from the first track, ‘So What?’ to its last track ‘Flamenco Sketches’”.
The universal nature of the album, its maverick edge and the significance of its 50th anniversary prompted Nhlengethwa to devote his entire upcoming solo show to Kind of Blue; the exhibition adopting the album’s title as its namesake. Featuring a series of etchings and lithographs produced at Mark Attwood’s Artists’ Press studio in White River as well as mixed media collage drawings and paintings all the size of vinyl record covers; Nhlengethwa’s new works are stark, mostly monochromatic and affectingly vivid, echoing the emotion of Davis’s melody. Black and white rendered silhouette figures recall another era, an age when taking risks was central to cultural development. The images are – in a smooth yet sketchy technique that takes Nhlengethwa’s characteristic style to new heights – a homage to music that is urbane and transcendent, minimal yet multifaceted and ultimately pioneering.
Nhlengethwa was born in the mining community of Payneville in Springs in 1955 and grew up in Ratanda location in Heidelberg, east of Johannesburg. He completed a two-year Fine Art Diploma at the Rorkes Drift Art Centre in the late 1970s. While he exhibited extensively both locally and abroad throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Nhlengethwa’s travelling solo show South Africa, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in 1993 established him at the vanguard of critical consciousness in South Africa and he went on to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1994.
His work has been included in key exhibitions such as Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and major publications such as Phaidon’s The 20th Century Art Book. He has had several solo shows in South Africa and abroad and has been a resident of the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Newtown, Johannesburg since the 1990s where, he says, “a week never passes without me listening to Kind of Blue”.