"Bom Boy" 1998
Butcher Boys 1985/86
Stripped ("Oh Yes" Girl) 1995
Triumph over capitalism:
"Bom Boys" 1998
"Bom Boys" 1998
Bom boy with workers
Lucky girl hotel - in the
Lucky doll laundry
Lucky girl with sweets
A feature on an artist in the public eye
Acknowledged as one of the most highly regarded artists in the country, Jane Alexander is also one of the most reticent, taking the position that her work must make its own statement. Alexander is an artist whose talent was clearly apparent from the start. Her piece Butcher Boys, the most popular contemporary piece in the collection of the South African National Gallery, and chosen by Jean Clair for his show 'Identita e Alterita' ('Identity and Alterity') in the Palazzo Grassi at the 1995 Venice Biennale, was made while Alexander was still doing her Masters degree at the University of Witwatersrand.
Procedurally, Alexander works by building her figures up in plaster on a variety of frameworks, adding found elements like bone or horns. In the case of the "Oh Yes" Girl, a lace collar is embedded into the figure's shoulders. Oil colours tint the flesh. In recent years, many of the figures have been dressed in purchased or specially made clothes.
Alexander's work does not lend itself to easy interpretation, but despite the artist's silence on the subject, the menacing and eerie figures The Butcher Boys, like Alexander's other sculptures from the late Eighties, were understood to be a manifestation of the deeply maladjusted apartheid society. In the years of change, a new series of work was begun, entitled 'Integration Programme', in which less fearsome but alienated-seeming figures, often hooded, were presented in disturbing tableaux. A second important body of work is Alexander's photomontages, in which her sculptures take on a history of their own as the frequent subject of her compositions.
In her first solo show since 1996, Jane Alexander will show '"Bom Boys" and "Lucky girls"' at the UCT Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town in July, bringing together a body of work which has occupied the artist over the past two years. Alexander lives in Long Street, home of a busy nightlife and its attendant body of street children, alternately preyed on and preying on those who come to sample the pleasures of the street. Alexander is the mother of a small son herself, and her early collages of a naked German boy in Nazi Germany display the concern she has always felt for the effect of society on children. The "Bom Boys" - the title is taken from gang graffiti - and "Lucky Girls" are Alexander's interpretations of those street children. Departing from her earlier practice, all the figures in this group are cast in fibre glass from a single mould, the animal masks which cover the heads differentiating between the figures. A new series of photomontages completes the exhibition.
Last September to November, Alexander's work was seen on 'Africa Africa', at the Tobu Museum of Art in Tokyo, curated by Toshio Shimizu. It was an opportunity for the artist to make a first visit to Japan, and some of the new collages incorporate images from this visit.
And before that:
The figures from the new "Bom Boy" and "Lucky Girl" series made their first appearance on 'Bringing Up Baby', the Terry Kurgan curated show which considered issues of motherhood and the position of children in the world.
In October this year, Alexander will show at the National Museum in Accra, Ghana, on 'South Meets West', which moves in April 2000 to the Kunsthalle Bern and Historisches Museum Bern, Switzerland. Future possibilities include appearances on a show curated by Monique Stupa in Rouille with the working title of 'Crossbreed Arts: Messengers of the Future' and the Lyons Biennale of 2000.
1959 Born in Johannesburg
Selected group exhibitions