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Kay Hassan's Towering Paper Constructions Inspired By Johannesburg's 'Everyday People' Are On Display In NYC

Kay Hassan's towering paper constructions inspired by Johannesburg's 'Everyday People' are on display at Jack Shainman Gallery in NYC.

Images via Jack Shainman Gallery


Everyday People is an exhibition of recent works by South African artist Kay Hassan currently on display at New York's Jack Shainman Gallery. The sprawling solo show, which features Hassan's trademark large scale paper constructions in addition to found objects and audio-visual installations, is Hassan's second at Jack Shainman (the first being 2008's Recent Photographs). Born in 1956 in the Johannesburg township of Diepkloof, Hassan spent his childhood hanging around his mother's shebeen as she catered to the miners and other working class individuals who gathered to drink after a hard day's work. A young Hassan soaked up personal stories and political views from the men and women who were living during this era of political apartheid, and his experiences from that period are bound in his work.

"Paper construction" is Hassan's preferred descriptor for the towering creations he's been making from repurposed material since the early nineties. Focusing primarily on the heads and upper torsos of his subjects, he assembles each piece by shredding old billboard paper then gluing the tattered scraps of commercial advertising back together to form imposing portraits modeled after passers-by he comes across in Johannesburg, where he's currently based. Hassan's portraits in his new show highlight the presence and resilience of those who are considered second class citizens, and by engaging with the social, political, environmental and economic issues of contemporary South Africa, he interrogates the everyday realities of the dispossessed and the displaced around the world.

Hassan's thirty plus year career has thrived both at home and abroad, and in 2000 he was the first recipient of the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Contemporary Art. Click through our gallery above for a preview of his new exhibit, Everyday People.

'Everyday People' is now on display at Jack Shainman Gallery (513 West 20th St.) in New York City and runs through November 15, 2014.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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