Titled Dream Invisible Connections, the exhibition will offer audiences a rare opportunity to view a large range of works by both artists, many on loan from private and institutional collections.
Curated by Strauss & Co art specialists Arisha Maharaj and Wilhelm van Rensburg, Dream Invisible Connections will be presented in Strauss & Co’s dedicated gallery at its Houghton offices in Johannesburg (11 July – 12 August 2022). Dream Invisible Connections is the fourth in a series of legacy exhibitions pairing prominent South African artists. Introduced in 2019 with a presentation of works by Louis Maqhubela and Douglas Portway, this well-received exhibition series has since explored linkages and commonalities between Maggie Laubser and Gladys Mgudlandlu (2020), and Robert Hodgins and George Pemba (2021).
“The possibly unexpected pairing of Dorothy Kay with Mary Sibande fulfils the mandate of the exhibition series by providing new frameworks for the appreciation and interpretation of important South African artists,” says Strauss & Co’s head curator Wilhelm van Rensburg. “The exhibition proposes new ways of interpreting Sibande’s various depictions of her iconic domestic worker alter ego, Sophie, and, in the case of Kay, of delineating connections between her virtuoso realist painting.”
Although vastly dissimilar artists, the exhibition invites audiences to pause on Kay’s well-known realist portrait, Cookie, Annie Mavata (1956). Based on a photo taken by Kay in 1948, the painting depicts the artist’s Xhosa cook in blue uniform. Although produced in a loaded historical context, the grandeur of Kay’s painting shares obvious affinities with the splendour of Sibande’s equally famous domestic worker alter egos, many depicted in blue uniforms.
Sibande, who came to wider prominence with a series of billboards in Johannesburg’s inner city, works across diverse media, notably textile, sculpture and photography. The exhibition will feature a number of photographic prints, as well as a series of new figurative bronzes on loan from SMAC Art Gallery
Kay will be represented by a number of historically important oils. They include The Elvery Family: A Memory (1938), which montages recollections of Kay’s siblings and parents, on loan from Iziko South African National Gallery, and Commerce (1943), a multi-part harbour scene, formerly installed in in the Agents’ Room of the South African Reserve Bank in Port Elizabeth and now in the collection of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.
Dream Invisible Connections is supported by an illustrated catalogue featuring an essay by Arisha Maharaj and Wilhelm van Rensburg and contextual texts related to key works in the exhibition.