We are pleased to present an exhibition from the Simchowitz Collection. This series showcases contemporary art with a special focus on Africa in our Los Angeles spaces. Simchowitz Collection exhibitions deepen our longstanding efforts to support contemporary art and artists globally.
For the oil and fabric collage on canvas paintings in My Cup Is Full, Wycliffe Mundopa shows us the languishing life in Harare, Zimbabwe—eating, drinking, lounging, licking—with an ever-present darkness at the surface of the play. The figures, predominantly women, seem to know that they are being watched, often looking back at us with, in turns, anger, suspicion, pleasure, or amusement. This is their everyday life, indoors and out, surrounded by owls, fish, papayas, and parasols. The hues here are both somber and vibrant, the emotional tone ranging from ecstasy to rage, all within a single piece.
Colour is an essential component to the works on view, particularly colour that clashes with the reality of what we see depicted. In One Thousand Afternoons, Part 2, 2017, four intertwined topless women in an orange, purple, blue, and green abstract setting reveal their split-toned breasts, purple and green, pink and blue. A lamp eclipses one of their heads; another's face is covered completely with green-blue hair. The two visages we do see reveal brightly colored makeup and deep lines on their faces. A ghoulish green woman, who places a gloved hand in her own lace panties, looks sternly at another woman, half dressed in a harlequin costume, who licks the side of the same pair of underwear while staring straight at us. There is a dark seduction at play, and one cannot help be wary of the unnerving figures seemingly selling themselves.
Despite the darker elements on display in these works—poverty, violence, alienation, despair—there is simultaneously a sensuality to the commonplace objects on view. Watermelons, papayas, and bananas are stunningly rendered in nearly every painting in the show. Polka dots, flowered fabric elements, and brightly colored patent leather high heeled Mary Janes draw us in again and again. The unsettling blank face of a child figure in The New Dispensation Part 5, 2018, is balanced by the delightful vibrancy of her pink, yellow, and green tank dress. In The New Dispensation Part 3, 2018, the disturbing, limp, Christ-like figure is resurrected by his jolly red statue of liberty crown. Life is not one thing in Harare, and in the works in My Cup Is Full, Mundopa shows us the disparate poles.
Wycliffe Mundopa's dynamic, complex paintings, occasionally ornamented with elements of fabric collage, showcase rousing details from Harare, Zimbabwe life—watermelons, wheelbarrows, parasols, pool tables, bars, bananas, and more. The scenes feature bright colours—hot pinks, rich reds, sea greens, as well as darker tones—drab greys, eery greens, and blacks. We often see animals including birds, frogs, fish, and dogs intermixed with people, mostly women in various states of undress, lounging seductively or unnervingly, indoors or out. Many of the artist's works remind us of Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso, due to Mundopa's surreal use of color, and the inaccurately proportioned facial features and body parts. Skin might be black or it could just as easily be purple or blue. One thigh might be yellow, while the other has a scaly blue mermaid pattern, or stripes, or spots. Figures intertwine so that we are uncertain where one begins and another ends. Rather than create an exacting replica of an everyday event, Mundopa evokes the experience or mood—the joy, frenzy, bacchanalia, energy, and complexity of urban life in the capital city.
Wycliffe Mundopa (b. 1987, Rusape, Zimbabwe) lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. He received a National Certificate in Fine Art from the National Gallery of Visual Arts Studios, Harare, in 2007. The artist has had solo exhibitions at Southern Guild, Cape Town, South Africa; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa; Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London; Out of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain; and First Floor Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe. Mundopa has also had work in group exhibitions at GNYP Gallery, Berlin; Alon Segev Gallery,Tel Aviv; Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco; PS Art Space, Fremantle, Australia; and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, among many other spaces. He was the 2021 winner of the FNB Art Prize and his work is held in numerous international collections, including the Ilana Goor Museum, the Right at the Equator project,the Museum of Modern Art of Equatorial Guinea, and the Lluís Coromina Foundation.
Press release courtesy Simchowitz.
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