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  • Jo Ractliffe, Nadir 11, 1988, silk screen on photolithograph, 22 1/2 × 23 5/8".

    Jo Ractliffe, Nadir 11, 1988, silk screen on photolithograph, 22 1/2 × 23 5/8".

    “Jo Ractliffe: Drives”

    The Art Institute of Chicago
    111 South Michigan Avenue
    October 17, 2020–April 19, 2021

    Curated by Matthew Witkovsky

    South African photographer and videographer Jo Ractliffe, whose peripatetic practice frequently surveys ravaged and etiolated landscapes with a roving camera, refuses easy categorization. This first international survey of her photos and lesser-known work charts her development from wandering modernist observer of Cape Town’s shabby urban periphery in the mid-1980s to experimental documentarian of Johannesburg’s postapartheid flux. The 130 photos, from about a dozen series, register abrupt transitions from black-and-white to garish, flash-filled color, as well as her deployment of different cameras and formats. Produced with an inexpensive Holga film camera, Vlakplaas: 2 June 1999 (Drive-By Shooting), a sequence shot at a farm once used by a state-run hit squad, is a benchmark of her oblique evocations of history through landscape. A new monograph, Photographs: 1980s—Now, features essays by the show’s curator, Matthew Witkovsky, and Emmanuel Iduma, as well as an interview with the artist.