10 New Museum Triennial Artists in 10 Days: Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude
Our fifth pick from the prescient New York show's 2018 installment is a self-taught Zimbabwean painter who confronts the injustices of his country's regime in visually appealing and highly coded canvases.
Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, The New Zimbabwe, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and First Floor Gallery Harare
Since Younger than Jesus, its 2009 first installment, the New Museum Triennial has been a key date on the New York art-world calendar. As the city’s only recurring show devoted to international emerging artists, it provides an indispensable first look at the people and practices who will help define the field in years to come. 2018’s event, subtitled Songs for Sabotage, gathers thirty artists and collectives linked by their interest in disrupting the hierarchies of propaganda, power, control that shape our lives and cultures.
Continuing daily through next week, GARAGE identifies and introduces ten Triennial artists to watch.
A member of a young generation of artists involved in confronting the social and political challenges of the Mugabe regime, Zimbabwean painter Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude (born 1988 in Harare, Zimbabwe; based in Harare, Zimbabwe) uses surreal imagery and camouflage patterning to veil the content of his provocative work. Having lived under the rule of the former African strongman for most of his life, the self-taught artist produces visual interpretations of old tribal proverbs to address contemporary concerns. “There’s no freedom of speech in my country, so I use our Shona tribe sayings metaphorically, and mix in camouflage motifs to further hide the true message,” Nyaude told GARAGE.
It’s illegal to wear camouflage clothing in Zimbabwe, so employing the design system in painting becomes a form of resistance. In his vibrant and psychologically charged paintings, Nyaude weaves body parts, appliances, ladders, and chessboards into coded narratives. And in his recent canvases The New Zimbabwe and The Red General, he depicts the new national leaders—seemingly as corrupt as their predecessors—who emerged in the wake of the country’s recent military coup.
Adding to the eerie power of Nyaude’s figures are their wide, smiling mouths, which suggest a tragic willingness on the part of his long-suffering countrymen to simply grin and bear it.
2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage is on view at the New Museum, New York, from February 13 through May 27.