17 April, 2007

Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas—Broken White

14 April 2007 – 1 July 2007
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

The exhibition’s official site:

Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) will present the first comprehensive exhibition in Japan of the works of Marlene Dumas (born in Cape Town in 1953), a female artist who creates and exhibits internationally.

Raised in apartheid South Africa, Dumas studied art at Cape Town University in the 1970s, an era when radical aesthetics rocked art to its foundations. Since 1976 she has made Amsterdam her base. Taking as subject matter her lovers, daughter and friends, or else images of people found in the media, her portraits have a suggestive character, highly provocative of the viewer’s imagination, and they document our society with disturbing honesty. To portraits and representation of the human body, traditional subjects in painting, she brings contemporary sensibilities and a forceful reality. Strongly influenced by photography and movies in her depiction of real human emotion, Dumas is restoring vitality to the painted image, as if by recombining the DNA of other media.

Because of her cultural background in South Africa, Dumas stands at a distance from Western culture and has readily absorbed references from African and Japanese art. Her existential approach to her subject, unbiased by culture, and her openness to references, as such, have engendered her unusual style.

Ceaselessly changing in her work, Dumas applies her individualistic interpretation of painting in depicting discrimination, prejudice, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and so on, thereby producing a social portrait rich in the complexity that defines our times. In this exhibition—together with “Banality of Evil” (1984) and other examples of her brightly colored, bewitching oil portraits of the 1980s; her renowned grouped-portrait series, “Female” (1992-1993), consisting of 217 drawings; and her nude portrait series—MOT will display works from her latest series, “Man Kind” (2002 – 2006), dealing with mistaken identities and fears concerning global terrorism.

As befits a presentation of Dumas works in Japan, the exhibition will reflect, in its composition, the artist’s interest and involvement in this country. Her new work “Broken White,” from which the exhibition title derives, will be displayed along with the Nobuyoshi Araki monochrome photograph that served as its model and also a Ukiyo-e print by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1792), whose grotesque world of Eros resonates with Dumas’s works and strongly caught her interest. The first exhibition in Japan to introduce the full scope of Dumas’s chief works—through 150 works, including some 10 new creations—Broken White will precede major Marlene Dumas retrospectives scheduled for 2008 at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.


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