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Rubber soul

‘Momentum 11: Nicholas Hlobo’ at the ICA; ‘12 X 12’ in Provincetown
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  July 29, 2008
Nicholas Hlobo, Injeke, 2008. Ribbon, rubber on Fabriano paper.

“Momentum 11: Nicholas Hlobo” at Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave, Boston | July 30–October 26, with public gallery performance July 31 from 6:30 to 7:15 pm | 617.478.3100

“Members’ 12 X 12 Open Exhibition And Silent Auction” at Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 460 Commercial St, Provincetown | August 1-31 (bids close August 31 at 3 pm | 508.487.1750
Pink satin ribbon, rubber inner tubes, and large swaths of flowing organza are some of the materials that Nicholas Hlobo uses in various media — performances, works on paper, sculpture — to examine gender, ethnicity, and his South African heritage. Hlobo, who was born in Cape Town in 1975, is the subject of “MOMENTUM 11: NICHOLAS HLOBO,” which opens at the Institute of Contemporary Art on July 30. For this show — the 11th in the ICA’s “Momentum” series (which examines new developments in contemporary art) and the artist’s first solo exhibition at a US museum — Hlobo will create a site-specific installation centered on a large rubber and ribbon sculpture that hangs suspended in the gallery and is connected to an opening in the gallery wall by a sculptural canal, with soft light from above giving it a pink glow. Expect evocations of the inner reaches of the human body, especially the womb and related channels and passages, as well as images of restraint, resistance, and intertwining. The works are titled in Hlobo’s mother tongue, Xhosa, which is one of 11 official languages of South Africa. Hlobo’s use of the language in his work further reflects his interest in issues of identity and society.

Hlobo has also developed a performance work, “Thoba, utsale umnxeba” (approximately, “to lower oneself and make a call”), which he will present in the gallery on July 31, sitting on an African reed mat and wearing a costume that will create a ritual attachment between the artist and the gallery. After the performance, the costume, the sculptural props, and a recording of Hlobo’s voice will become part of the exhibition.

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) was established in 1914, and by the following year it had begun collecting and exhibiting the work of local artists. These included expatriates returning from war-torn Europe and bringing with them international influences to the outer tip of Cape Cod. Over the decades, PAAM has reflected the philosophical and æsthetic debates of the larger art world through ongoing exhibitions and educational programs. Opening at PAAM August 1, the annual “MEMBERS’ 12x12 OPEN EXHIBITION AND SILENT AUCTION” presents work by emerging and established artists, all of it created on 12x12 inch panels. The works are for sale by silent auction, with proceeds going to support PAAM and its programs.

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