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Internationally-Acclaimed "Paul Emmanuel: Transitions" Visits MICA, Sept. 8-Oct. 2

Solo Show Examines Transitory Life Stages of South African Men with Drawings, Film

Posted 08.01.11 by MICA communications

Paul Emmanuel-original drawings, hand incised on exposed and processed color photographic paper, 2005–2008. Courtesy Spier Contemporary Collection Images: Art Source South Africa.

BALTIMORE--From Thursday, Sept. 8- Sunday, Oct. 2, MICA presents Paul Emmanuel: Transitions, a touring solo exhibition by the South African artist created to explore how the military has influenced and perpetuated notions of masculinity in his native country. Emmanuel's works, to be showcased in Brown Center's Rosenberg Gallery (1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.), will welcome viewers to meditate on transitory life stages, stimulate thoughts on patriarchy, and pose questions around perceptions of masculinity, the passage of time and the human condition. The exhibition's opening reception will be held on Friday, Sept. 9 from 5-7 p.m., followed by an artist talk in Falvey Hall from 7-9 p.m.

The show comprises a series of five "photographic" works which, when examined closely, are revealed to be sensitively hand-drawn, photo-realist sequences of images. These film-like progressions obsessively capture moments of five transitory stages in life. They depict unidentifiable male subjects of various ages, sometimes in traditional institutions like the military, as well as religious and secular institutions, which have shaped the way in which the male identity has been defined.

A sixth work titled 3SAI: A Rite of Passage, a 14-minute film produced by the artist, documents the head shaving of new recruits at the Third South African Infantry Battalion (3-SAI) in Kimberley. This is one of two South African military training camps that still performs the obligatory hair shaving of army recruits when they join the South African National Defense Force. During South Africa's Apartheid era, obligatory head shaving was an enforced rite of passage for thousands of white male conscripts.

"These liminal moments of transition, when a young man either voluntarily-or is forced to-let go of one identity and take on a new identity as State Property with an assigned Force Number, prompted me to ask many questions," Emmanuel said. "What was I actually witnessing? What is a ‘Rite of Passage' and how have similar ‘rituals' helped to form and perpetuate identities and belief systems throughout history? Why was I so powerfully drawn to and transfixed by these dramatic spectacles of subtle change and moments of suspended possibility and impossibility?" 

The exhibition premiered at The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg in 2008, has toured throughout South Africa and was showcased at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Emmanuel's film has been featured at the 39th annual International Film Festival in The Netherlands and the Design Indaba Expo National Film Festival in South Africa, to name a few, and in 2009, was unanimously selected as the winner by an international jury at the Africa in Motion Film Festival, Edinburgh.

In phase two of this project, Emmanuel is producing a hand-drawn, hand-printed lithographic series with images based on Transitions' concepts. Five triptychs (three images each) are scheduled to be created by the end of 2011. The book, The Transitions Project, documents the exhibition project as a whole. Art Source South Africa is the project manager for all aspects of Transitions.

In previous and concurrent works, namely The Lost Men Project and after-image, Emmanuel produced installations and a major drawing engaged with public and private loss, memory and constructions of male identity. His interest in the "documentary" nature of photography and the printmaking concept of leaving impressions have informed his new works over the past three years. Emmanuel's solo work has been on exhibit at various museums, nationally and internationally, such as kunst: raum sylt quelle Foundation in Germany and the Albany Museum in South Africa.

MICA's exhibitions and public programs receive generous support from the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Special Programs Endowment; the Amalie Rothschild '34 Residency Program Endowment; The Rouse Company Endowment; the Richard Kalter Endowment; the Wm. O. Steinmetz '50 Designer in Residence Endowment; the Rosetta A. Samson and Sadie B. Feldman Endowment; the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive; and the generous contributors to MICA's Annual Fund.

Hours for MICA's galleries, which are free and open to the public, are Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. They are closed on major holidays.

Image Caption: Paul Emmanuel-original drawings, hand incised on exposed and processed color photographic paper, 2005-2008. Courtesy Spier Contemporary Collection Images: Art Source South Africa.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.