Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950

February 20, 2011 - April 17, 2011

Exhibition focuses on photography’s role in south africa’s dynamic transformation
This exhibition features the work of 18 photographers, new media and video artists, who lived and worked in South Africa during the apartheid era (1948-1994), though a few now live elsewhere. Darkroom’s eight sections highlight the ways that these artists have addressed South African culture from various perspectives, and their increased presence in the global art world since 1994. It examines the use of analog and digital media, still and moving pictures, and two- and three-dimensional formats to express relationships between mid-twentieth-century approaches and more recent ones, and differing concerns among artists of successive generations.

The show has a particular resonance to Birmingham audiences. “There are remarkable parallels between Birmingham’s Civil Rights history and the Apartheid Era in South Africa,” said Ron Platt, the BMA’s Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “The photographs and video in this exhibition vividly convey this time in South African history, and I wanted to share with our audience how people there lived through something remarkably similar to what happened in Alabama, and how what happened here impacted people on the other side of the World. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu often cited Birmingham’s nonviolent demonstrations as inspirational to the Apartheid Movement.”

About the art
Through the combination of vintage prints, recent photographs, photo-based installations, and video art, Darkroom underscores photography’s role in documenting some of apartheid’s most riveting moments, while considering myriad ways that South Africans resisted apartheid, and have emerged from it. Prior to Darkroom’s exhibition in Richmond at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from August 21 to October 24, 2010, these works had never been shown together in the United States in this context.

“Darkroom provides a chance for audiences in Richmond and Birmingham to see works by these internationally celebrated artists who have contributed greatly to global trends in contemporary art through their perseverance and technical excellence,” says Tosha Grantham, exhibition curator. “Juxtaposing historical material and recent work emphasizes the camera’s power and possibilities, and the ways that these artists have explored this conceptually in their work.”

Accompanying the exhibition is the catalogue Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950 by Tosha Grantham. The book won the gold medal in the Multicultural Non-Fiction Adult category of the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

About the artists
Darkroom includes 18 artists who span four generations: fourteen are South African; four are from England, the United States, and Germany, and either made South Africa their home or created significant bodies of work there. The works were made from 1950 to 2008. Featured artists are: William Kentridge, Robin Rhode, Jürgen Schadeberg, Nontsikelelo Veleko and Sue Williamson.