Student-curated Exhibition Opens at Gillespie Gallery: Faces & Figures: Identity Through Printmaking in South Africa

Student-curated Exhibition Opens at Gillespie Gallery: Faces & Figures: Identity Through Printmaking in South Africa

On Monday, March 25th, the doors opened at Gillespie Gallery on Mason’s Fairfax campus to reveal a new exhibition entitled, “Faces & Figures: Identity through Printmaking in South Africa.” This exhibition, which brings in prints made by contemporary South African artists, was curated by Mason’s own students. ARTH 495: Curating an Exhibit runs every spring, and the course is centered around the curation and organization of an actual exhibition.  Students engage in original research to select and organize works, they propose a theme, create checklists of works, write wall texts, prepare the gallery, and install the works. They are also responsible for producing promotional materials, designing the website, and organizing educational programs to coincide with exhibition. The course is demanding and rewarding, and provides students with a wide range of professional experience.

Each year the course is taught by a different faculty member, and thus the themes of the exhibitions vary. This year, the course was taught by Dr. LaNitra Berger, Associate Professor of History and Art History and Director of African and African American Studies at George Mason University. Dr. Berger’s own research in South Africa and connections to the artists of the country enabled the students to bring to Fairfax original works from contemporary artists – particularly those associated with the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg.

The students describe it thus: “Faces & Figures: Identity Through Printmaking in South Africa” is a student-curated exhibition that explores artists’ expressions of identity in South Africa through the lens of printmaking. The artists are alumni and current students of Artist Proof Studio (APS), a community printmaking center of excellence in Johannesburg, South Africa. Featuring over 100 prints by 40 artists from throughout southern Africa, the prints range in technique, style, and subject matter, drawing inspiration from South African popular culture and history as well as personal narratives. Embracing the spirit of self-awareness and innovation central to APS, these artists offer a glimpse into the complexities of personal and collective identity in Johannesburg.

The exhibition will be open from March 25th to April 19th, 2024 and it is free and open to the public. An opening reception was held on Tuesday, April 2, from 5-7 pm at the Gillespie Gallery.