Raquel van Haver: Rising Phoenix
David Krut Projects, New York
September 6 – October 20, 2023
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 6 from 6-8pm
David Krut Projects, New York is pleased to present Rising Phoenix, the gallery’s first solo exhibition with Raquel van Haver. Exploring issues relating to crime, insurance and property ownership in Johannesburg, this exhibition features a series of ten experimental monoprints created in collaboration with the David Krut Workshop (DKW) alongside a pair of large-scale, sculptural paintings inspired by the series.
In her primary practice, Raquel van Haver mainly works on burlap, combining oil paint with materials such as tar, chalk, resin, hair, bottle caps and beads in heavily textured compositions extending organically beyond the borders of her monumental canvases. Resonating with her own experiences, Van Haver interweaves subjects such as identity, history, folktales and urban stories, femininity, masculinity, the politics of gentrification and religion, and the vision of the greater Caribbean in her work, offering authentic snapshots of daily life in and out of global urban societies and giving a voice to those who live between the borders and in the shadows of the underground world. She typically approaches the beginning of a project like a journalist, sometimes completing years of documenting, archiving and interviewing her subjects before she feels she has learned enough about their unique colors and behaviors to begin working.
In early 2023, Van Haver visited the David Krut Workshop (DKW) with the intention of exploring – both the city of Johannesburg, and her own artistic practice. Over two weeks, she experimented with concepts and techniques, beginning only with a loose idea and letting it spontaneously evolve in response to her environment. Van Haver exchanged her sculptural painting technique and immersive large-scale work for the slightness of surface involved in monoprints at a smaller scale. This change forced the artist to enact an intimate way of connecting with the viewer. Van Haver found the process of making prints at DKW allowed her to “rediscover visual language” as she employed representational, drawn forms.
During her time in Johannesburg, Van Haver became intrigued by the lengths locals take to protect their assets – which she notes can appear over-the-top and somewhat ridiculous – and created the satirical series of unique prints in Rising Phoenix. While navigating the city, Van Haver came upon graffiti stating: “There will never be peace on stolen land.” In this activist’s statement, Van Haver saw connections between South Africa’s colonial history; the current reality of gentrification in Johannesburg, Colombia and the rest of the world; the fear evident in extreme property protection; and the Catholic Church’s seven deadly sins.
In her monoprints, Van Haver explores these connections through a satirical lens and in bold color. Recurring iconological motifs resemble electric fencing and security fence spikes, a common sight in Johannesburg. These motif elements surround a playful central image, each illustrating a category of personal property locals purchase insurance policies for and marked with text indicative of its implied social sin: “Superbia” (pride), “Avaritia” (greed), “Luxuria” (lust), “Invidia” (envy), “Gula” (gluttony), “Ira” (wrath), “Acedia” (sloth), “Vanagloria” (vanity), “Tristitia” (sadness). The two large-scale paintings Van Haver created for Rising Phoenix are also influenced by her time in Johannesburg, borrowing visual, technical and thematic elements from the series of monoprints and exploring Van Haver’s likening of the city to a phoenix – something waiting to explode before it can rise again.
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Born in Bogota, Colombia in 1989, Raquel van Haver lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In 2012, Van Haver graduated from the HKU University of the Arts in Utrecht. Recently, she has spent long periods abroad, gathering source material in both West Africa and South America, always returning to her diverse community in the South-East of Amsterdam.
Van Haver has exhibited widely. In 2020 Van Haver presented “Amo a la Reina” – a solo presentation within the group show “Say It Loud” at the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht. “Amo a la Reina” is an extensive research project into Van Haver’s heritage and the status of female social leaders in the Colombian regions, forming an in-depth investigation of womanhood more broadly. In her penchant for communication Van Haver commented, “Connecting with people in daily life is really important. Something so small can move mountains.” She further exhibited works from this series at Breda Photo in Breda and Museo Bolivariano in Colombia.
In November 2018, Van Haver opened a solo exhibition titled “Spirits of the Soil” at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam that remained on view for six months. Van Haver has also exhibited at de fundatie, the Netherlands; Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria; BOZAR Centre for Fine Art, Belgium; and KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin. She won the prestigious Dutch Royal Prize for Painting in 2018 and the Amsterdam Award in 2019, both esteemed accomplishments in the Netherlands. Her work was the subject of the documentary “The Women of My Country” by Bibi Fadlalla, broadcast on Dutch television in 2020.
Van Haver founded The Passage in Amsterdam, and the titamba glass workshop in Tamale, Ghana. Here she works intensively with the witch camps (settlements where women accused of witchcraft can flee for safety), the Knust University, and one of Ibrahim Mahama’s sites called Red Clay on a long-term project interweaving education and Folklore to build social skills in the arts that can create meaningful change in communities.
David Krut Projects, New York 526 W. 26 St, 8th Fl, Suite 816, New York, NY 10001