NEL ERASMUS
Review

26 October 2011 – 01 March 2012

SMAC Art Gallery is proud to present Nel Erasmus – Review, a major retrospective exhibition of Erasmus’ artistic career, which spans more than six decades.

The exhibition brings together different periods in Erasmus’ oeuvre and includes formative and student work from the late 1940s and early 1950s, as well as a number of Parisian paintings. Works representative of her formalist/Post-Cubist abstract period of the 1960s and the emotionally revealing and expressive paintings of the 1970s are exhibited together with works from the 1980s onwards

SMAC Art Gallery has previously featured Erasmus prominently in a three-part series of exhibitions; Abstract South African Art from the Isolation Years, in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The gallery has subsequently included Erasmus’ work in two further historical exhibitions, DIVISIONS: Aspects of South African Art 1948 – 2010 as well as Abstract South African Art: Revisited (2011). The aim of the exhibition is to refocus attention and pay tribute to an artist whose contribution to South African art is immense. Erasmus’ foresight and determination during her years as the first female director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) and later as an art advisor has contributed to the addition and acquisition of invaluable artworks to public and corporate collections in South Africa, in particular the highly acclaimed international modern and contemporary collection of the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Most importantly, as a painter, Erasmus is one of the earliest exponents of abstract art in South Africa. Since the 1950s she achieved substantial success both locally and abroad. Erasmus exhibited her works for the first time in Paris in 1955. In the same year her work also formed part of the Salon Des Réalités Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne. Although Erasmus was never a ‘popular’ painter, her work received much critical acclaim and she was the only South African artist to be included in Michel Seuphor’s seminal survey of abstraction: Abstract Painting: 50 Years of Accomplishment, published in 1964. In 1961, she was invited to exhibit at the 2nd Paris Biennale at the Musée d’Art Moderne and in 1965 she represented South Africa at the São Paulo Biennale.

Since her first solo exhibition in South Africa in 1957, Erasmus produced thirty solo exhibitions and took part in more than seventy group exhibitions. Between 1985 and 1986 a major travelling retrospective exhibition of her artistic output was organised by the University of the Free State Gallery and was hosted at prominent institutions including the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town, Potchefstroom Art Museum and the Pretoria Art Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by an artist monograph published by SMAC Art Gallery, with text by Antoinette Glatthaar-Theron, Linda Stupart, Elza Miles and a foreword by Deon Viljoen.