Through a multivalent practice, Ngolé responds both the plight of refugees, and to the transit of objects within contemporary culture. The bundles are constructed using the logic of the refugee. During nighttime walks around Memphis, Ngolé gathers his materials: discarded objects, as well as bits of fabric and foam. He then creates quick assemblages, often incorporating a swath of highly-patterned Congolese fabric, in often just a minute’s time. Constructed with no aesthetic concerns save for necessity, the bundles contain the trauma of displacement, as well as a veiled critique of the disposability inherent to global capitalism—both of objects and people. In this way, Ngolé formally and thematically engages artists like John Chamberlain, whom he holds in regard, the déclassé materialism of Arte Povera, and the legacy of the found object. Dirty and frayed, they seem to have travelled a long distance without rest or recuperation, yet not without hope.
Similarly, the painting on display refers to the provisional architecture of the refugee camp. Made of shabby fabrics loosely stretched within a frame of unadorned 2x4s, the object could, if needed, be turned horizontally and used to provide shelter to a person in need. The primacy of use value over aesthetic considerations is seen in the peel of acrylic paint, affixed almost as an afterthought.
Finally, Ngolé will use the architecture of the gallery as an antenna for his pirate radio station, and will fill the gallery with two sound compositions. These pieces speak to the many roles that radio plays in the life of a refugee—it is often the only form of escapism, but since it is often used by political rivals to spread propaganda and vitriol, it is also a constant reminder of the causes for displacement.
Gil Ngolé was born in Brazzaville, The Republic of the Congo. He studied Fine Arts at the Rueil-Malmaison College of Art in France, and will receive his MFA from the Memphis College of Art in December. This is his first solo exhibition at Tops. He has exhibited at the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo; and Crosstown Arts, Memphis.
Tops Gallery is a contemporary art space located in downtown Memphis, TN. Founded in 2012, their goal is to produce challenging exhibitions that engage the local community while simultaneously creating a conversation with larger art centers such as New York City, Los Angeles, and beyond.
A Season Moved runs from August 21 - October 3, 2015
Tops Gallery is located at 400 S. Front Street.