Artist Meleko Mokgosi Appointed Associate Professor of Painting/Printmaking at Yale School of Art

 

THE YALE SCHOOL OF ART announced the appointment of Meleko Mokgosi as associate professor of painting/printmaking on May 14. A painter, Mokgosi uses figuration and representation to explore political themes, notions of democracy, and post-colonialism in Southern Africa. His tenure-track appointment begins July 2019.

“As an artist and an educator, Meleko Mokgosi is dedicated to an expanded language of aesthetic and historical references while building on the necessary tools to build a sustainable and critical studio practice,” Marta Kuzma, dean of the Yale School of Art, said in a statement. “His regard for the larger political ramifications of techniques of production explore the conceptual foregrounding of painting and in doing so, his approach challenges the way in which many graduate students grapple with negotiating critical social questions within their artist practice.”

Meleko Mokgosi’s “regard for the larger political ramifications of techniques of production explore the conceptual foregrounding of painting and in doing so, his approach challenges the way in which many graduate students grapple with negotiating critical social questions within their artist practice.” — Marta Kuzma, Dean of Yale School of Art

Mokgosi’s artistic practice focuses on project-based history painting. He often incorporates text in his work and draws on a range of fields including cinema studies, psychoanalysis, critical theory, and post-colonial studies. Presented across eight exhibitions in six years, his series Democratic Intuition (2014-2019) considers democracy as a practical matter in terms of its macro and micro effect on everyday life.

Jack Shainman, the artist’s gallery, described the project as, “Touching on the often-contradictory notions inherent in the concept and practice of democracy—the individual in the face of the collective, intuitive versus inscribed behaviors—Mokgosi probes the idiosyncratic ways in which democracy is reciprocated and unfolds across time.”

 


Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018. Fowler Museum at UCLA. | Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles. Photo © Monica Nouwens

 

BORN IN FRANCISTOWN, Botswana, Mokgosi lives and works in New York City. He holds an undergraduate degree in studio art from Williams College and earned an MFA from the interdisciplinary studio program at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2011-12, he was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. When the Yale appointment was announced, Mokgosi was serving as an assistant professor of practice at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University

Mokgosi has exhibited widely. Most recently, he had three solo shows in 2018. “Meleko Mokgosi: Acts of Resistance” was on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Fowler Museum at UCLA presented “Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power.” Last fall, Honor Fraser in Los Angeles featured “Objects of Desire: Reflections on the African Still Life.”

Speaking publicly about his work and the depiction of black bodies, Mokgosi periodically discusses how art students are instructed to mix paint, the formula prescribed in order to achieve a color equivalent to “flesh” tone, meaning white skin.

In a conversation with Interview magazine, Mokgosi said: “When you’re painting skin tone, there’s a big difference between white skin and black skin, obviously. Black skin really depends on shadows and white skin depends on layering of highlights. …the way it has to be done, it’s reductive. I put paint on and then I remove it, to build volume. It’s important to me because ultimately, this is what I am interested in painting: black skin.

He is developing a related monograph. The working title is “Flesh Tones: The Politics of Painting Skin.” Based on interviews with an intergenerational slate of artists, including Laylah Ali, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry James Marshall, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, among others, the project is about the complexities of rendering black skin tones.

 


Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018. Fowler Museum at UCLA. | Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles. Photo © Monica Nouwens

 

A SIX-MEMBER search committee selected Mokgosi for the faculty appointment. Members included Kuzma, dean of the art school; Byron Kim, senior critic in painting/printmaking; and Tavia Nyong’o, Yale professor of African American studies, American studies, and theater studies.

“Meleko brings an international artistic vision to Yale, as well as an assured grasp of the critical conversation,” Nyong’o said when the appointment was announced. “The committee was impressed in particular by his commitment to pedagogy and mentorship at all levels. He is well-positioned to build on Yale’s historic strengths in painting, while contributing to emerging interdisciplinary conversations in critical practice.”

Yale School of Art alumni include prominent painters such as Jordan Casteel, Titus Kaphar, Mickalene Thomas, Howardena Pindell, Stanley Whitney, William T. Williams, and Kehinde Wiley.

“I am thrilled and feel honored to be welcomed into the Yale arts community. …I am excited to work with the talented and exceptional students at Yale, and look forward to contributing with my utmost as an artist and educator. No doubt, the painting/printmaking department at Yale has a rich and incredible history, and continues to make some of the most significant contributions to the discourse as a whole.” — Meleko Mokgosi

Mokgosi said he is “thrilled and honored to be welcomed into the Yale arts community.”

In an email statement to Culture Type he added: “It truly is a dream to join the ranks of esteemed faculty and practitioners such as Byron Kim, Anoka Faruqee, Alexander Valentine, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, and Robert Storr, to mention a few. As equally important, I am excited to work with the talented and exceptional students at Yale, and look forward to contributing with my utmost as an artist and educator. No doubt, the painting/printmaking department at Yale has a rich and incredible history, and continues to make some of the most significant contributions to the discourse as a whole.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Portrait of Meleko Mokgosi. | Courtesy Yale School of Art

 

FIND MORE about Meleko Mokgosi on his website

 

BOOKSHELF
“Meleko Mokgosi: Pax Kaffraria” documents one of Meleko Mokgosi’s earlier series (2010-2014) and was published by the Hammer Museum.

 


Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018. Fowler Museum at UCLA. | Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles. Photo © Monica Nouwens

 


Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018. Fowler Museum at UCLA. | Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles. Photo © Monica Nouwens