Meleko Mokgosi

Meleko Mokgosi is professor of practice at New York University. By working across history painting, cinematic tropes, psychoanalysis, and post-colonial theory, Mokgosi creates large-scale project-based installations that interrogate nationhood, anti-colonial sentiments and the inscription and transmission of history. Mokgosi’s education includes: BA Fine Arts, Williams College, Williamstown (2004); Affiliate Independent Study Program, Slade School of Fine Art, London (2006); Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York (2007); and MA Fine Arts, Interdisciplinary Studio Program, University of California (2011). His work has been exhibited at institutions such as the Botswana National Gallery; the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

Modern Art: The Root of African Savages, Addendum, 2015
Inkjet print and charcoal on linen, 61 x 45.7 x 3.8 cm each
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Meleko Mokgosi’s new work, Modern Art: The Root of African Savages, Addendum, is composed of twenty-two panels addressing the problematic reinscription of colonial discourses using museum labels as source material. Mokgosi makes critical interventions in the didactics that structure how the public understands works of art, systematically deconstructing the power dynamics and cultural biases that underpin these presumably neutral, educational descriptors. This work references the wall labels from the exhibition African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2012) which created narratives of inclusion that sublimate African art, and Africa itself, into a Western modernist project. Mokgosi’s commentary on these labels is in turn personal, emotional, analytical, and poetic, inserting an individual voice to counter these institutional constructions of history. By articulating unspecified references, parsing word choices, and pointing to ellipses in the labels, he constructs potential models of knowledge.


Modern Art: The Root of African Savages, Addendum (2015), Installation view Göteborg Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler