Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum: I have withheld much more than I have written

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Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm

528 West 26th Street, NY 10001, New York, United States
Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


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Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum: I have withheld much more than I have written

to Sat 22 Oct 2022

528 West 26th Street, NY 10001 Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum: I have withheld much more than I have written

Tue-Sat 10am-6pm


Galerie Lelong & Co., New York presents a solo exhibition by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, the artist’s first major solo exhibition in New York.

Artworks

The Butchers, 2022

Pencil and oil on wood panels
30 x 60 x 1 5/8 in (76.2 x 152.4 x 4.1 cm)

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Sinner Get Ready, 2022

Oil and pencil on wood panels
40 1/8 x 63 3/4 in (102 x 162 cm)
Signed and dated on reverse of each panel

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Walkie Talkie, 2022

Oil and pencil on wood panels
50 x 40 1/8 in (127 x 102 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse

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Front Room, 2022

Oil and pencil on linen
78 3/4 x 86 5/8 in (200 x 220 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse

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Garden Girl, 2022

Oil and pencil on wood panels
40 x 119 5/8 in (101.6 x 303.8 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse of each panel

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The Chair, 2022

Oil and pencil on wood panel
29 7/8 x 24 1/8 in (76 x 61 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse

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Frangipani, 2022

Oil and pencil on linen
78 3/4 x 66 7/8 in (200 x 170 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse

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Lambsheart, 2022

Oil and pencil on linen
78 3/4 x 66 7/8 in (200 x 170 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated on reverse

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Balebetse (the sky the stars), 2022

Oil and pencil on canvas
61 5/8 x 63 1/2 in (156.4 x 161.2 cm) Framed: 64 3/8 x 66 x 1 3/4 in (163.5 x 167.6 x 4.4 cm)

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Mumbo Jumbo and the Committee, 2022

Installation with wood, film, and painting components
Running time: 56 seconds Painting, overall: 48 1/8 x 96 in (122 x 244 cm)

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I have withheld much more than I have written features new works: a large installation and a suite of paintings. The figures in Sunstrum’s works—often her alter-egos—are situated in undefinable landscapes; an exploration of cultural embeddedness within geology that reflects overlapping issues of colonialism, capitalism, and so-called global migration crises. With references to domestic environments, rurality, and systems of control, Sunstrum’s work journeys into processes of disintegration—processes that are at once intimate, violent, sensual, madding, and tender—in the pursuit of home and wholeness.

The central thesis of the exhibition recalls the first vehicle for spectacle—Daguerre’s diorama of 1822—with a new installation from which a narrative saga unfolds. Upon entering the smaller gallery, visitors are met with the diptych The Committee (2022), depicting seated men and women in Victorian dress, their appraising gazes looking into the distance past a red projector and an empty red chair. Wooden pews invite visitors to sit and face the same direction as the figures, toward a free-standing installation on the other side of the room. A wooden structure that parallels the architecture of Victorian theatre through the proscenium arch frames a video work containing a living room setting; replete with the chairs and settees of Sunstrum’s paintings and the volcanic landscape from Daguerre’s diorama. Figures appear in the space, their gaze meeting those in The Committee.

This atmosphere of surveilling tension seeps into the rest of the exhibition where new paintings are on view, rendered in oil and pencil on linen. As with much of Sunstrum’s oeuvre, the works emerge from a constellation of literary references including Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk (2018) (a quote from which gives the title of the show), and most notably, the writings of Bessie Head (b.1937-d.1986). In particular, Sunstrum references Head’s A Question of Power (1973), a semi-autobiographical work set “amidst the compartmentalization, fragmentation, and preoccupation with taxonomy that characterize and undermine life in Southern Africa.” Exuding a fluidity in her visual poems, Sunstrum layers references and metaphors within each work; a plastic chair ubiquitous in the Global South misses a leg, black and white checkerboard flooring do not offer a sense of place.

The figures of Sunstrum’s work stand as a collective; they are often representations of herself through the alter-ego Asme (“as me”) or based on historic photographs of Black ancestors.

“Identity, power, selfhood and the political power that comes along with those ideas can never be reduced to a single standing being. My single body is a representative of masses of bodies, whether as community or as ancestry or as collective history or collective memory, of solidarity,” the artist has said.

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and London.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York


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