Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations on view at the Art Gallery of York University

Meleko Mokgosi, Spaces of Subjection: Imaging Imaginations I, 2022 (panel 1 and 2) © Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations

January 20 – June 10, 2023
Opening Reception & Artist Conversation: January 19, 6-9 pm
Art Gallery of York University, Toronto

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) is pleased to present Meleko Mokgosi’s first solo exhibition in Canada, Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations. On view from January 20 to June 10, 2023, this exhibition debuts a new body of paintings and prints by Mokgosi that examine the role that images play in how we form perceptions of ourselves and others, within both our psychic realities and our lived experiences in the material world.

Mokgosi is well-known for his imposing and vivid multi-panel paintings that feature hyper-realistic depictions of Black figures within narrative scenes that prompt us to question the ethics of democracy, structures of power, and forms of knowledge. The artist’s penchant for employing cinematic framing and panoramic modes of display, his skillful brush strokes, and his sensitive rendering of skin tones endows his art with a seductive allure that captivates audiences. Mokgosi’s art often subverts conventions of European history painting—a genre popularized in the fifteenth century devoted to Eurocentric narratives of history, mythology, and religion—by privileging the depiction of daily life in Southern Africa and narratives of African and Black diasporic histories.

The success of Mokgosi’s art is also owed to his pedagogical approach to making. The artist’s attention to Black figures in domestic interiors, abstracted outdoor spaces, and imagined locations is always with an intent to explore a historical or theoretical concept—most visibly signaled by his inclusion of vernacular materials such as anti-apartheid posters, photos of political figures, and decorative objects that are specific to his generation coming of age in southern Africa. Mokgosi is dedicated to a project-based research practice that entails a long-term engagement with critical theory, post-colonial studies, and the material cultures of liberation in contemporary Black life.

Mokgosi’s current and ongoing project is titled Spaces of Subjection. Within this growing body of work, he examines the complexities of subjecthood and the politics of identity and identification. Drawing from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s thinking, Mokgosi’s project considers questions of self-fashioning and self-determination within different physical spaces, cultural and national locations, and stages of maturation. The artworks created to debut at the AGYU query the role of images as societal forces that inform our sense of self and relation to others, or, in other words, subjecthood.

Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations is curated by AGYU Curator Felicia Mings. The exhibition will be accompanied by an opening celebration and dialogue with the artist on January 19, 2023, from 6–9pm. Parallel programs inspired by the exhibition also include a children’s story time, a conversation between the artist and master printer Brian Shure, gallery talks lead by esteemed York University faculty and staff, and an evening of poetry. For more information on these programs visit: AGYU.art/project/mokgosi.

Meleko Mokgosi (1981) is a Botswanan-born US-based artist and educator. He is Associate Professor at the Yale University’s School of Art and co-founder of The Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program in New York City. He received his MFA from the Interdisciplinary Studio Program at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011 and received a BA from Williams College in 2007. Mokgosi has participated in numerous residencies such as the Rauschenberg Residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, FL (2015); Artist in Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2012); and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, New York (2007). He has exhibited widely in both group and solo exhibitions, his most recent solo exhibitions including Currents 122: Meleko Mokgosi, Saint Louis Art Museum, MO (2022–2023); Pan-African Pulp, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI (2019–2022); Scripto-visual, The Current, Stowe, VT (2021); and Your Trip to Africa, Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL (2020–2021).

The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation is the presenting sponsor for Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations.

The AGYU is a public, university-affiliated, non-profit contemporary art gallery supported by York University, the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council.

AGYU acknowledges its presence on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations including the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Huron-Wendat. We offer this land acknowledgement as an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those on whose territory we reside, which is currently held by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

For press inquiries contact Danica Pinteric, Communications Assistant: danicap@yorku.ca

For accessibility requests, please contact Michael Maranda: mmarand@yorku.ca

For exhibition tours, please contact Allyson Adley, Education and Community Engagement Coordinator: aadley@yorku.ca

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Art Gallery of York University
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