Frame

Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi

Mariane Ibrahim, Seattle (F4)

Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Floor II, 2014. Courtesy: the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle

Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Floor II, 2014. Courtesy: the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle

Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi (born 1980) lives between Harare and Johannesburg.

Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi is a multidisciplinary artist who divides her time between studio work, and navigating the field of art as social practice. Her work investigates power and its structures – political, social, architectural. Implicit in her examination of these structures is an interrogation of the invisible forces that create them, and an imagining of alternatives.

Elite gymnastics occupies a powerful symbolic position in the public imagination: the human body performing at, and sometimes seemingly beyond, the limits of the possible. The gymnasium is a vast, open-plan stage where dramas are enacted under a gaze of intense scrutiny. Gymnasts become actors, producing layered narratives of far-reaching metaphorical and political significance. One of the most personally affecting narratives in the history of the sport has been that of the precarious position of the Black body in traditionally white spaces. Looking at gymnastics, the artist sees echoes of the process of painting – expression within the demands of form, attention to balance, and geometry. There are also parallels with the painter’s position in the contemporary art world. The artist, like the gymnast, is a performer (if at times a reluctant performer) whose actions are subjected to constant scrutiny, for whom increasing exposure brings a heightened experience of vulnerability.

Nkosi obtained her BA from Harvard University and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her paintings and films have been shown at the Ifa Gallery, Berlin; South London Gallery, London; Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg; Joburg Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale; and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.