Southern Guild returns to Untitled Art in 2023 with a focus on three young artists: South African painters Jozua Gerrard and Katlego Tlabela, and Zimbabwean ceramic artist Xanthe Somers. Untitled Art takes place from 5-10 December at Ocean Drive and 12th Street, in Miami Beach, Florida.
Diverse in style and conceptual interests, the three Southern Guild artists represent unique viewpoints from the African continent who engage with their political, social and cultural contexts in different ways. They share a pop-infused formal approach that harnesses elements of fantasy and play, undergirded by a sense of dissonance. Gerrard’s lone figures hint at a listless malaise, while Tlabela responds to persisting economic inequality with bolstered fantasies of self-determination. In contrast, Somers’ sculptural vessels are barbed critiques of corruption and consumption.
Southern Guild’s presentation at Untitled Art – its second year exhibiting – comes just two months before it launches its first gallery in the United States. The opening of the 5,000 sqft space on Western Avenue in Melrose Hill marks a milestone moment for the South African gallery, whose artist roster, gallery programme and fair participation have expanded significantly over the past few years.
Xanthe Somers’ large-scale, intricate ceramic works combine political commentary and hyper-ornamentation to draw attention to Western overconsumption, cheap labour and the impact of eco-racist practices on the Global South. Born in Harare in 1992 and now based in London, Somers focuses on ceramics to reimagine the everyday and examine the “subtle treason of objects”. The bodies of her classically-shaped vessels are punctured with peepholes, encrusted with woolly tassels and interlaced with woven elements such as string and garden hose. Somers studied Fine Art (Hons) at the University of Cape Town and completed an MA in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2020. She has held solo exhibitions at Galerie Revel in Bordeaux, France, First Floor Gallery Harare in Zimbabwe and Fusion Art Gallery in Turin, Italy, and has exhibited at fairs including Collect Art Fair in London and Untitled Art in Miami, where Southern Guild first presented her work in 2022.
Jozua Gerrard’s large-scale, enamel-on-glass paintings explore his personal experience of contemporary youth culture: its connections and disconnections, utopian projections and ever-present shadows. Born in Cape Town in 2001, his fascination with the everyday is central to his works, which he describes as “little windows into people’s existence”. Painting his friends, partners and peers, Gerrard portrays scenes of intimacy and isolation – lone figures in candid moments of repose, the outside world receding in large expanses of flat, discordant colour. His subjects appear to have let their guard down but connection with the viewer is thwarted by the ever-present red mask they wear. Referencing the horned African masks traditional to West Africa, the appendage is a signature motif that the artist describes as an attempt to reclaim the notion of ‘primitivism’ from colonialist appropriation. The artist has held two solo exhibitions, including Loveland at Southern Guild in 2021. The gallery presented Gerrard’s work at Untitled Art last year.
The paintings of Johannesburg-based artist Katlego Tlabela explore notions of luxury, leisure and the world of the “nouveau riche” as they appear in contemporary South African society. The artist’s multi-panelled tableaux are self-referential, often depicting himself in highly stylised domestic spaces that offer a lens into the lives of the newly imagined and real Black elite. Tlabela’s construction of these worlds is decidedly postmodern; he splices together references from popular culture, recognisable local and international brands, cut-out figures from magazines, reappropriated texts, renowned art and design. The series of paintings made for Untitled Art make recurring reference to swimming pools, that ultimate middle-class status symbol, here a signifier of Black wealth. Born in Tshwane, South Africa in 1993, Tlabela obtained his Honours Degree in Fine Arts from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town in 2017. His work was recently included in When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, and he has participated in group shows in Lagos, London and New York. His work has been presented at fairs such as Frieze London, FIAC, 1-54 London and New York, and Liste Art Fair Basel.
During the fair, Southern Guild’s director Jana Terblanche will be part of a podcast panel discussion titled ‘Curating in the Digital Age’. The focus will be on how curatorial practices are evolving in the ever-expansion of new technologies, as well as visual experimentation with digitalisation and new viewing experiences.