Dancing Rose, 2019

Unique Artwork

Oil on Canvas

CM H 76.5 W 91.5

IN H 30.12 W 36.02

Signed by artist

Dancing Rose, 2019

This work is part of the latest body of work by artist Raél Jero Salley at the Gallery MOMO. The solo exhibition is titled "War of the Roses".

It can be said that the history of painting is a history of flowers. Flowers in paintings are elusive⁠—and in a way, empty⁠—signifiers, fluctuating constantly in meaning and value. To use the cliché, what’s in a name? A rose by any other… A flower can be whatever the viewer wants it to be. The metaphor can be extended to Salley’s paintings in general, which inhabit worlds both familiar and uncanny, inspiring multiple possible imaginaries:

A woman in Victorian garb seems the subject of a withered, lost-and-found photograph, the painting a restoration of all those forgotten-but-not-gone. She could have been a poet, or a student, or a domestic worker, or a matriarch, or a singer, or a criminal, or an intellectual. Identity and meaning reside in the unknown. Another black-and-white painting features two mustachioed men in suits. One wonders if they were lovers, or brothers, or colleagues, and what can be made legible of the monochrome orchid dripping seductively at the edge of the frame?

The couple on the park bench by the rosebush, are they drawing towards each other, or pushing away? Is it longing or dismay in his face? Temptation or distrust in hers? What do we make of the monuments in the background; what structures or histories might be looming over this scene? Salley has a way of rendering these ordinary scenes and characters opaque, and reveling in that opacity, celebrating the frayed ends between what the artist creates and what the viewer interprets.

War of the Roses is not about flowers, but flowers, as Salley says, “show up.” In other words, flowers promise to thread together the otherwise disparate narratives of Salley’s paintings, to varying degrees of fruition. Ultimately, Salley’s flowers invite the viewer to attune themselves to that which is liminal, marginal, or misunderstood, crafting an experience of seeing and empathising based not on consumption, nor recognition, per se, but radical imagination.

Raél Jero Salley

Raél Jero Salley (b. 1979, United States) struggles through issues of representation, broadly. His practice is grounded in the history and tradition of painting, but with subjects who are addressed in non-linear ways. Often, Salley’s paintings appear out of context: they resemble photographs, film stills, commemorative portraits, but they lack definitive names, periods, or narratives. The result is a constellation of images that engages with the viewer’s imagination.

Generally, Salley’s work is interested in how we look at things and expect them to be meaningful. He wants his images to generate more questions than answers, to open and expand dialogue.

Raél Jero Salley is an artist, cultural theorist, and art historian. He holds degrees from The Rhode Island School of Design (BFA), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and The University of Chicago (PhD). His research interests include modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on Blackness and the African Diaspora.

Currently serving as Chair and Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Visiting Professor at UCLA (African American Studies), and a Research Associate at Stellenbosch University, Salley previously served as Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

Salley is a contributing editor to The Postcolonialist Journal, and his words have appeared in The Queer Africa ReaderKerry James Marshall: Who’s Afraid of Red, Black, and GreenThird TextSocial Dynamics Read more

Gallery MOMO

Gallery MOMO is a contemporary art gallery with a focus on African art and art from the Diaspora. The gallery has spaces in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

Since opening their doors in 2002, Gallery MOMO has developed a strong creative and intellectual platform for showcasing a substantial portfolio of South African, continental and international contemporary art.

The gallery also manage the estates of notable 20th century South African masters.

Gallery MOMO hosts a residency programme for local and international curators and artists where we aim to encourage an international dialogue and cooperation between artists from different parts of the world.

Gallery MOMO Cape Town
16 Buiten Street
Ground Floor
Cape Town 8001

Opening hours:
Mon to Fri 9am- 5pm
Sat 9am - 1pm

Gallery MOMO Johannesburg
52 7th Avenue
Parktown North
Johannesburg 2193

Opening hours:
Mon to Fri 9am - 5pm
Sat 9am - 4pm

Read more
Curated by Gallery MOMO

Other artworks from same artist


Beloved, 2019

Raél Jero Salley

Explore other artworks from the same gallery


Beloved, 2019

Raél Jero Salley

Division of one

Division of one, 2019

Pedro Pires


Applause, 1945

Dumile Feni

Mbula Matari I

Mbula Matari I, 2019

Maurice Mbikayi

Explore other artworks

Les Plumes de la fortune #2

Les Plumes de la fortune #2, 2020

Serigne Ibrahima Dieye

Cour Suprême I, Palais de Justice, CAP manuel, Dakar

Cour Suprême I, Palais de Justice, CAP manuel, Dakar, 2014

François-Xavier Gbré

Prop. 8 (prou(k)n)

Prop. 8 (prou(k)n), 2018

Nolan Oswald Dennis

Asmara I

Asmara I, 2018

Girma Berta