Raél Jero Salley I Raél Jero Salley I Johannesburg

Raél Jero Salley

Raél Jero Salley

Cape Town I 22 Oct to 28 Nov 2015


“I’m fascinated by notions of autonomy, liberation and freedom. My work explores the dynamic relationships between art and freedom in various modes. In this way, perhaps new visions can appear to show us new ways out of old constrictions.”

Raél Jero Salley’s first solo exhibition at Gallery MOMO, he examines the dynamics between art and freedom. Present considers the visual representation of Black and Africana people in relation to “western” society and the pictorial tradition associated with it.

The programmatic title points to the exhibition’s linking of the ideas and goals of autonomy, liberation and freedom and centuries long traditions of art making in South Africa and beyond.

Salley’s pictures and objects are characterized by the way they combine an exploration of traditions in histories of art, culture and society with issues and themes related to Africana life, visual perception, and connections in art.

The works seek to “initiate something utterly new for which no patterns exist, because these works connect the past to the future and the future to the past.”

In terms of form, content and meaning, Salley sets out to consider a set of “possibles,” which are tools and methods for resolving gaps between past and future. Instead of working in one artistic medium, Salley works across several media. Ideas, issues and themes are not restricted to within South African borders, but address the United States, Europe, and elsewhere across the globe.

Salley’s work is multifaceted. Its productive aspects are drawing, painting and object-making. They are interlinked by systematic study of, as well as engagement with, works of art from the past: their assessment, selection from them for the artist’s own vocabulary and the use of those parts in his own production. Salley’s critical awareness is expressed in the above activities and is developed through these activities. Throughout the entire exhibition, a consciousness of lived experience—specifically worldviews in Africana and Black lives—fluctuates between overt and subtextual manifestations.

The artist sets out to relate each artwork to a movement in and of time and space. By relating each artwork to a moment of human action, a technique of ‘world making,’ Salley presents a fresh batch of drawings, paintings and objects based on his understanding of the meanings bequeathed by the past via remembered actions or surviving artifacts and, through figurative work and portraiture, the artist’s self-conscious expressions of presence in absence.

“I think of myself as working in modes,” Salley says: “Each modality is selected because of how it engages the narrative of history, art history in particular, and it presents and opportunity to address the absence, but ubiquitous visibility and ever-present fact of so-called ‘African’ and ‘Black’ people since before art or history even became things in the world.”