Kalashnikovv Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa 07 Jun 2018 - 23 Jun 2018
Richardt Strydom, Chastity begins at home. Digital print on 100% cotton artist paper 610 mm x 890 mm. Edition: 10. Courtesy the artist.
“White Masks” a solo exhibition by Richardt Strydom in Kalashnikovv Gallery’s Project Space opens on 7 June and runs until 23 June 2018.
There is great power in self-reflection. It is defined as the ability to look into yourself, to introspect and to learn more about what informs who you are. It is simpler to see the scars and afflictions of other people than it is to see our own because self-reflection requires us to look in the mirror and really hone in on both the beautiful and ugly parts of who we are.
We live in masks. There are the masks we make for ourselves and wear to avoid being exposed to society’s criticism and then there are the masks our upbringings slowly mould for us. These masks are difficult to shed because they become such a big part of our identity. They become a part of us, a perfect fit and the skin we are comfortable in.
The power of Richardt Strydom’s “White Masks” is the very personal journey of removing the masks white masculinity wears and often hides behind. His, is an honest and vulnerable look at the white Afrikaner male mask he grew up with. It is an exploration of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa and looks specifically at violent hypermasculinity and sexuality.
There is something very striking about Strydom’s exhibition. The images are a shock to the system. At first glance, they invoke feelings of sadness, fear and disgust. What is most important, however, is how the portraits draw you in and implore you to inspect them further.
What you see then, is the deep scarring of gendered and racial ideologies on the individual psyche.
There is a deliberateness in the selection of how the masks manifest. Scars, bruises, open flesh wounds, patched up sores, exposed tissue, chained genitalia and abnormal growths. Our masks are so deeply entrenched part in who we are that getting rid of them is not an easy process – Strydom rips off the plaster to expose the horror of festering sores.
Not only does Strydom explore the pain of removing the masks, he examines the violent masculinity that comes with keeping them on. He does this by depicting some of the young men in the portraits with hand gestures shaped like guns that point into their mouths and under their throats.
A conversation on violence and hyper masculinity can never shy away from examining the relationship between the idea of “being a man” and how this relates to “sexuality”. This is something often taught in the home. The inclusion of the “chastity begins at home” piece is stark in this body of work. The in-your-face depiction of crushed male testicles is horrific. The sexuality of young men is often so restricted and results in many of them having no breathing room to find themselves and denying who they are for a very long time.
Strydom leaves no stone unturned in this exhibition and his work calls for the viewer of the art to not only engage with his reflection of self, but with their own too.
Text by Shandukani Mulaudzi.
Richardt Strydom is concerned with agency and how identity performance is informed by socio-cultural and art traditions and the intersections and slippages these produce. He likes to consider different mediums as well as spaces, addressing different aspects of the topic. Strydom has received a number of awards including an ABSA l’Atelier Merit Award (1997), a Sasol New Signatures Merit Award (1997), Overall Winner of the Sasol New Signatures Competition in 2008. Apart from a number of solo exhibitions, he has participated in numerous national and international art and design group exhibitions. His work is included in private and public collections.
Shandukani Mulaudzi holds a Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate from The University of the Witwatersrand and #UCKAR. After an eventful career in journalism, working for titles like HuffPost South Africa, City Press, Finweek and YOU magazine, she ventured into the wonderful world of brand communications.
70 Juta Street, Braamfontein