MELEKO MOKGOSI: ZONES OF NON-BEING

MELEKO MOKGOSI: ZONES OF NON-BEING

June 28 – October 4, 2024


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Image credit: Meleko Mokgosi, Space of Subjection: Black Painting V, 2022.

Meleko Mokgosi: Zones of Non-Being presents a selection of recent works by the US-based, Botswana-born artist and educator Meleko Mokgosi. Spanning a wide breadth of disciplines, Mokgosi’s first exhibition in Detroit highlights his extensive research on the philosophies and processes of identity formation, as well as his applications of critical theory through the visual arts.

The exhibition title borrows from philosopher Frantz Fanon’s seminal text ‘White Skin, Black Masks’ (1952), and refers to Fanon’s ideas surrounding the possibility of colonial liberation as an existential experience. These ideas are key to Mokgosi’s intricate practice, which provides an aesthetic methodology for countering colonial systems of categorization and control. Through the dislocation and reimagining of recognizable images, texts and symbols from across African and Diasporic history and culture, Mokgosi’s work throws established narratives and their received meaning into disarray, creating space for new and alternative viewpoints to emerge.

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Image credit: Meleko Mokgosi, Spaces of Subjection: Imagining Imaginations IV, 2023.

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Image credit: Meleko Mokgosi, Spaces of Subjection: Imagining Imaginations IV, 2023.

Anchoring the exhibition is a group of fifteen large-scale works-on-canvas titled Spaces of Subjections: Zones of Nonbeing. Through the words of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and other Black scholars, these works recontextualize illustrations from Sara Cone Bryant’s Epaminondas and His Auntie, a children’s picture book from 1911 that relies heavily on racist tropes and stereotyping. By delving into the symbolic depths of these representations, Mokgosi prompts critical reflection on how such imagery contributes to the construction—and often subjugation—of Black identity or “subjects”.

In an art historical framework, the term “subject” serves as the primary visual and conceptual focal point that guides the viewer’s attention and interpretation of a work. Zones of Non-Being critically engages with the impactful role the “subject” has had across cultures to suppose that identity can exist beyond a container of category. The exhibition hypothesis is supported by additional works from Mokgosi’s “Spaces of Subjection” series, where he works with the writings of French post-structuralists Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan to unpack the notion of the “subject” across histories. These works examine how agency and consciousness are traditionally understood and portrayed across artistic and philosophical realms.

Zones of Non-Being offers more than an aesthetic experience: it is an invitation to question the very foundations of identity, its construction and representation. By urging viewers to embrace a sense of mistrust and displacement, Mokgosi’s work challenges the basic assumptions through which we perceive ourselves, each other and the world around us.

About the Artist


Image credit: Meleko Mokgosi. Courtesy of the artist.

MELEKO MOKGOSI (born in Francistown, Botswana; lives and works in Wellesley, MA) is an artist, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the Yale School of Art, and the Co-founder and Director of the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program. Mokgosi received his BA from Williams College in 2007 and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program that same year. He then received his MFA from the Interdisciplinary Studio Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2011 and was an Artist in Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem from 2011 through 2012. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally at Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; the Botswana National Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana; the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art Museum, Peekskill, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; and the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, France. His work is included in public collections such as The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at Rollins College, Winter Park, FL; and the Colby Museum of Art, Waterville, ME.

Events


Event information about upcoming exhibitions will be published in summer 2024.

Press + Media


MAY 3, 2024

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DETROIT ANNOUNCES MELEKO MOKGOSI’S ZONES OF NON-BEING

Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

Exhibition title  in Publication, Month Day, Year

Meleko Mokgosi: Zones of Non-Being is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. This exhibition is made possible with generous support from the Mellon Foundation.

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ford foundation
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