Stephen Hobbs: JAG SNAG

Stephen Hobbs has chosen to embark on a five year project which aims to revise, deconstruct and re-imagine the architectonic and spatial characteristics of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG). This is a specific trajectory that makes use of artworks, installations, video and a series of symposiums and workshops to address issues surrounding the well-being of the building and to offer a platform that aims to achieve a thought process through intervention. What Hobbs describes as a “grandiose brief” can be likened to the projects which artists such as Christo and Gordon Matta-Clark have used to influence the artistic perception of architecture.

In 2014, the original Lutyens building of the Johannesburg Art Gallery will be 100 years old. In1986, Meyer/Pienaar Architects’ new facade enclosed the courtyard, increased exhibition space below ground and included additions to the East and West wings. It is obvious where the joins between the old and the new sections of the museum connect from within the courtyard. Over the years, the building has weakened between the old and the new sections causing water damage. Antoinette Murdoch, Chief Curator of JAG, has made it one of her goals, during her tenure, to improve these faults. Hobbs and Murdoch have worked together to realise this project, starting last year in November, with the celebration of a 100 years of collecting art. Their goal, through the various projects and interventions, is to address the matter at hand by 2014.

Since his last intervention at JAG, in November 2010, Hobbs has been working on a series of etchings and a linocut at the David Krut Workshop at Arts on Main. The linocut depicting the façade of JAG, from the Joubert Park entrance, is obscured by an optical illusion called a dazzle pattern. In the past Hobbs has used this effect to obscure a physical building and as a wall relief featured in his exhibition Fool’s Gold (2010) at David Krut Projects. Hobbs is concerned with the detail in the fabrication, in language and code within the material.

His aquatint prints represent the map of the city of Johannesburg. Although there are no street names, the area where JAG is situated almost becomes a target icon, and a keyhole-like image formed by the Joubert Park layout, suggesting this area as the ‘key to the city’. The visual puns seem less obvious when the optical illusion, created by the black blocks offset by the white roads, takes over. Strange grey dots begin to vibrate at each intersection, suggesting some kind of movement. The phenomenon of the dots is used to illustrate a metaphor about urban space experienced in the actual streets in these areas where congestion is ever present.

Hobbs usurps the standard technique of mapping out the city block to road ratio, in order to talk about a fleeting urban experience. The mark on the artwork extends beyond the surface to the actual surroundings it depicts. This image as with the main exhibition room here, has been reworked as a 50 square metre wall painting on view at David Krut Projects at Arts on Main until end June.

– May 2011

All intaglio prints on show are available at David Krut Projects, Arts on Main. For more information, please contact Monica: Tel: 011 334-1209 | monica@davidkrut.com