Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Jazz and Blues at Night, a new series of prints, tapestries and mixed media collage works by Sam Nhlengethwa, paying homage to the musicians that have inspired him throughout his five decades-long artistic career. This marks Nhlengethwa’s first solo exhibition in London, following a smaller presentation of his work in London last year as well as a recent solo exhibition at the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
In collaboration with Adler Beatty, Goodman Gallery is pleased to concurrently present works from Sam Nhlengethwa's Jazz and Blues at Night in New York. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in New York, and runs until 23 October.
Over the course of his career, Nhlengethwa - dubbed by critics “one of the country’s most celebrated living artists” - has developed a distinctive collage and painting practice while exploring themes common to everyday life in South Africa, the street life, domestic interiors to the influence of mining. Intrinsic to this practice is Nhlengethwa’s love of jazz.
From the age of 15, Nhlengethwa was exposed to the genre through his two older brothers who listened to everything from the classic standards of artists such as Miles Davis and Dave Brubek to the more experimental sounds of Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus, to name a few.
“My life belongs to the jazz world because I don’t spend a day in my studio without listening to jazz in the background,” says Nhlengethwa. With a collection of over 4000 vinyls, Nhlengethwa views his records as “art material”, likening the experience of listening while working to a dialogue. “I don’t think I could be who I am, what I’m doing in the art world, if there was no jazz. It is my daily inspiration.”
Prominent jazz musicians have regularly featured in Nhlengethwa’s work over the years. This time around, the artist has widened his scope to incorporate both jazz and blues artists, bringing to the fore previously overlooked historical figures such as Johnny Lee Hooker and BB King.
Jazz and Blues at Night features the first ever public display of pages from Nhlengethwa’s sketchbooks dating back to the 1980s. These drawings form a sort of note taking for Nhlengethwa who would carry along his sketchbooks wherever he went, finding inspiration in jazz clubs, restaurants and buskers on the street. The selected sketches represent over a decade’s worth of these drawings, which themselves served more as ideas for Nhlengethwa than actual blueprints for his work.
In the series Kind of Blue, Nhlengethwa celebrates the best selling jazz record of all time through a series of lithographic portraits of the musicians on the album against a blue backdrop.
In collaboration with Adler Beatty, Goodman Gallery is pleased to present works from Sam Nhlengethwa's Jazz and Blues at Night in New York. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in the United States and runs until 23 October.
Punctuating Nhlengethwa's body of work are a selection of works by renowned painter and collagist, Romare Bearden, a long-time artistic reference for Nhlengethwa, who was similarly embedded in New York's jazz world.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Sam Nhlengethwa was born in the black township community of Payneville near Springs (a satellite mining town east of Johannesburg), in 1955 and grew up in Ratanda location in nearby Heidelberg. In the 1980s, he moved to Johannesburg where he honed his practice at the renowned Johannesburg Art Foundation under its founder Bill Ainslie.
Nhlengethwa is one of the founders of the legendary Bag Factory in Newtown, in the heart of the city, where he used to share studio space with fellow greats of this pioneering generation of South African artists, such as David Koloane and Pat Mautloa.
Despite the artist's pioneering role in South African art, this marks Nhlengethwa's first solo exhibition in London. Prior to this, a major survey of the artist's work titled Life, Jazz and Lots of Other Things was hosted by SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia in 2014, touring to SCAD and the Carter Center, Atlanta, as well as a print retrospective of his work titled Leeto at the Wits Art Museum, curated by Boitumelo Tumi Tlhoaele.
Other notable exhibitions and accolades in South Africa and around the world include: in 1994 - the year South Africa held its first democratic elections - Nhlengethwa was awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award; in 1995, his work was included in the Whitechapel Gallery’s Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa in London; in 2000, he participated in a two-man show at Seippel Art Gallery in Cologne.
Other significant international group exhibitions include Constructions: Contemporary Art from South Africa at Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi at in Brazil in 2011, Beyond Borders: Global Africa at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in 2018.
Nhlengethwa’s work has featured on a number of international biennales: in 2003, his work was included in the 8th Havana Biennale, Southern African Stories: A Print Collection, the 12th International Cairo Biennale in 2010, the 2013 Venice Biennale as part of the South African pavilion, titled Imaginary Fact: Contemporary South African Art and the Archive, and in the 6th Beijing Biennale in 2015.
Nhlengethwa’s practice features in important arts publications, such as Phaidon’s The 20th Century Art Book (2001).