June 11 – July 11, 2009
James Harris Gallery is pleased to present the first U.S. exhibition by South African artist François van Reenen. His sculptures and animations elaborate on the tradition of comic art to convey more complex issues in response to a changing social and cultural landscape of South Africa. The artist’s work is not political commentary but an investigation of memories of growing up in white South Africa. Van Reenen states “I was struck by vague memories of my childhood. I mostly remembered having to be quiet on Sunday afternoons, because my parents were napping. Actually, our whole suburban neighborhood was dead quiet – and white.”
Van Reenen’s figurative sculptures are imbued with an atmosphere of nostalgia and blandness. They are rooted in his interest in 1950s toys and comics, when a supposedly ideal post war world was full of hopes and dreams. His characters range from dogs, cowboys, girls, boys to monsters, each always oblivious to the world around them, as though caught up in their own thoughts or dilemmas. Yet his characters communicate with comic simplicity, companionship and loneliness, or, connection versus alienation. Very seldom are relationships set up between human characters. This implies a sense of disassociation from the external world and an individual resistance to an unrelenting reality. But in the end the overall tone of each work leaves the viewer happy in an unsettling world.