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Indepth Arts News:

"Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa"
2000-05-12 until 2000-08-13
Austin Museum of Art
Austin, TX, USA United States of America

During the past decade, South Africa has experienced an extraordinary series of political and cultural transformations that resulted in the downfall of apartheid in 1994 and the forging of a democratic society in its place. Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa is the first major exhibition to explore the work of a younger generation of South African artists that has emerged since this transition, whose members strive to address issues unique to the present moment in their country's history-including self-identity, cultural diversity, and social responsibility. This exhibition features over 50 works in varied media-sculpture, paintings, installations, and photographs-alongside extensive interviews that highlight the background of each artist and give insight into the diversity of artistic responses engendered by the changes now occurring in South Africa.

In the past, many South African artists, whatever their background, created art that predominantly sought to bring down apartheid. Since that time, the political aspect of their work has become less explicit, while identity has developed as a focal point of artistic exploration in a society that includes people of African, Asian, and European origin. The artists in Liberated Voices reveal two broad tendencies in their effort to come to terms with the legacy of apartheid: Some create works that are decidedly autobiographical in nature, with many reflecting upon the subtly complex relationships between blacks and whites. Others recycle the discarded materials of daily life from the township past to fashion reinvigorated visions of the future. Mbongeni Richman Buthelezi, one of the most important artists of this new generation, melts plastic bags of different colors to use as paints, while Samson Mnisi and Thabiso Phokompe combine traditional African materials and Western art media to comment on the shifting relationships of power within South African society. Liberated Voices places the contemporary art of South Africa within a wider global context, showing how South African artists have absorbed and re-interpreted concepts drawn from Western art. It also demonstrates the impact that these artists, experiencing an unprecedented freedom of expression, have made on the cultivation of dialogue and discussion within a culture in flux-making art an essential component in a society's reinvention of itself.

Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa is the first exhibition of art from this nation to be presented in Texas. The exhibition was organized by the Museum for African Art, curated by Frank Herreman and co-curated by Mark D'Amato. It is made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Major funding has been provided by grants from the Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa; the LEF Foundation; Jason H. Wright, and Jerome and Ellen Stern. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by leading South African critics and art historians will be available. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of educational programs for adults and young people, including an enhanced website at www.amoa.org and an on-site Electronic Learning Lab available at the Museum with which visitors can interact. An exhibition of works produced through ArtReach at The Park at the Children's Hospital of Austin will be on display in the Learning Lab through the duration of the Liberated Voices exhibition.

In Austin, the exhibition is presented by Dell Computer Corporation. The Austin Museum of Art is funded in part by the City of Austin. American Airlines is the official airline of the Austin Museum of Art. Additional support has been provided by the Austin Museum of Art Guild and Museum Members. Promotional sponsors for the Austin Museum of Art are 107.1 KGSR, the Austin American-Statesman, The Austin Chronicle, CitySearch, FOX 7, and Pentagram Design.

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