Dancing Rose, 2019
Oil on Canvas
CM H 76.5 W 91.5
IN H 30.12 W 36.02Signed by artist
Dancing Rose, 2019
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 Reader; Kerry James Marshall: Who’s Afraid of Red, Black, and Green; Third Text; Social Dynamics Read more
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.
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