Critics’ Picks

Banele Khoza, Our Bed, 2016, watercolor on paper, bed. Installation view.


Banele Khoza

Pretoria Art Museum
Schoeman & Wessels St Arcadia Park
July 9–September 4

Banele Khoza was a preteen living in Swaziland when Marlene Dumas, a South African based in Amsterdam, painted Moshekwa, 2006, a bruise-colored expressionist study of artist Moshekwa Langa. Khoza saw the portrait in 2008, the same year he moved to South Africa, and credits it with inspiring him to be a painter. His journey to reaching this goal was indirect: After completing high school he studied fashion, immediately hated it, and a year later enrolled in a fine-art degree. “Temporary Feelings,” an emotional showcase of recent paintings and works on paper that record his search for love and belonging in a carnal world, is his debut solo exhibition following his graduation in 2015. Khoza’s fifteen acrylic paintings, most of them portrait studies, are his strongest suit.

The artist cannily uses color to evoke his rudimentary figures. Union Pub (all works cited, 2016), a study of six human figures rendered in gradations of blue and red, describes a desperate hook-up at a local gay club. Fixated, a study of an ambiguously gendered torso created from cascades of blue, is the closest Khoza comes to resembling Dumas, whose figurative virtuosity he eschews in favor of cartoonish imprecision. Khoza’s watercolor-like handling of acrylic is evident when compared to a display of his actual small watercolors; they are strewn across a bed placed at the center of the gallery. This neatly orchestrated installation, Our Bed, belies the artist’s age, twenty-two, and his need to both declare and overcome his influences, which here is namely Tracey Emin’s My Bed, 1998. It is a flippant gesture, but so is painting a yellow-faced Caucasian emoji and titling it Move On, when clearly the heart doesn’t want to.