"Bom Boy" 1998
Fibre glass, oil paint, fabric
Studio shot

Butcher Boys 1985/86
Mixed media

Stripped ("Oh Yes" Girl) 1995
Mixed media

Serviceman 1994
Mixed media

Triumph over capitalism:

Landowner 1995

"Bom Boys" 1998
Fibre glass, oil colour, fabric
Installation detail

"Bom Boys" 1998
Fibre glass, oil colour, fabric
Installation detail

Bom boy with workers
and traffic

Jane Alexander
Street Cadets with Harbinger:
Wish, Walk/Loop Long
Installation detail
Mixed media

Jane Alexander
Street Cadets with Harbinger:
Wish, Walk/Loop Long
Mixed media

Lucky girl hotel - in the
event of an earthquake

Lucky doll laundry

Lucky girl with sweets


A feature on an artist in the public eye

Jane Alexander
(July, 1999)

Modus operandi:

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.

Before that:

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.

Next up:

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
Currently senior lecturer in sculpture, photography and drawing at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town.

1996 FNB Vita Art Now Award
1995 Standard Bank Young Artist Award

Solo exhibitions
1999 '"Bom Boys" and "Lucky girls"' - UCT Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town 1995-6 Standard Bank Young Artist Award - Sponsored national touring exhibition
1986 'Sculpture and Photomontage', Market Gallery, Johannesburg

Selected group exhibitions
1999 'Emergence', Albany Museum, Grahamstown, Standard Bank National Arts Festival
1998 Triennale de Kleinplastik: Europa, Afrika, SudwestLBforum, Stuttgart
1998 'Africa Africa', Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo
1998 Dak'Art, Biennale de L'Art Africain Contemporain, Dakar
1998 'Bringing Up Baby', Grahamstown Arts Festival
1996 'South African Aboresence: End of the Century's Artists', Arts Festival, Nantes
1996 'Fault Lines - Inquiries around truth and reconciliation' - The Cape Town Castle
1996 'Colours - Contemporary art from South Africa' - Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
1995 'Identita e alterita', Venice Biennale, Palazzo Grassi
1994 The Fifth Havana Biennial, National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana
1994 'Un Art Afrique du Sud', Gallerie de L'Esplanade, Paris
1993 'The Critics' Choice', ICA, Johannesburg

Public collection of Fellbach, Germany
South African National Gallery
Tatham Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
University of Witwatersrand
University of the Free State
Sandton Civic Art Gallery
Gauteng Legislature
IDASA, Cape Town

... MWeb

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