States Of Being

After the Barbarians

Oct 13 – Nov 12, 2011
513 West 20th Street New York, NY 10011

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Press Release


After the Barbarians

October 13 – November 12, 2011

Opening reception for the artist: Thursday, October 13, 6 - 8pm.

Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to announce After the Barbarians, our second solo exhibition of work by Anton Kannemeyer. This exhibition will includelarge-scale paintings and works on paper.

Jean-Paul Sartre once argued “the status of ‘native’ is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonized people with their consent.” In his most recent body of work, Anton Kannemeyer shows us the condition of “post-colonial” Africa as seen through the eyes of a Euro-African who has no other home.

It is no wonder that Kannemeyer’s art makes viewers uncomfortable about definitions of black and white, European and African. He paints post-colonial Africans as the hell-bent illegitimate children of violent historical rape, both victims and perpetrators. He implicitly asks how the clear-cut categories and neat names expressed by political correctness could accurately describe the violent mess that has spawned the likes of Apartheid, Idi Amin, and the genocide in Rwanda. On the other side, he confronts the affluent South African suburbia where Western luxuries are lined with apocalyptic fear and xenophobia.

Savage indignation about bigotry and the abuse of power has always been at the core of Kannemeyer’s work, but the point of departure was not that of the concerned citizen or philanthropist. His scathing and often self-effacing art comes from an ambiguous and darkly personal place. It does not have any pretense to a God’s-eye view, but frequently places the artist within his own twisted sociopolitical landscape.

Kannemeyer has, however, broadened his satirical scope significantly in recent years. After meticulously drawing the anatomy of white fear and loathing, he started wrestling with the social issues plaguing his own country and the continent as a whole. His latest work urges one to look again at imperialism and the racial and cultural identity that has become synonymous with post-apartheid South Africa.

By calling his new exhibition After the Barbarians, Kannemeyer makes reference to P. Cavafy’s classic poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” which the South African Nobel-prize winner J.M. Coetzee used as a title for his allegorical novel dealing with the horror and absurdities of colonial thinking. In Coetzee’s text, the natives are the “barbarians,” whereas in Kannemeyer’s work, such as B Is for the Beauty of Military Life, the civilized Western colonizers of Africa seem to be the real barbarians.

- Danie Marais, Cape Town, 2011

Anton Kannemeyer is the co-editor of Bitterkomix, a biting sociopolitical and satirical comic magazine he started with Conrad Botes. In the past 20 years, Kannemeyer has become a controversial and influential artist in South Africa. His work is in the permanent collection of such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa, and the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Recent solo exhibitions include Alphabet of Democracy, which was accompanied by a catalogue, at Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town. Recent group exhibitions include Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Peekaboo: Current South Africa, Helsinki Art Museum, and NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, New York. Kannemeyer was born in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Upcoming exhibitions at the gallery include Richard Mosse, Infra opening November 17, 2011.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. For additional information and photographic material please contact Elisabeth Sann at