Highly Personal: South African Artists and Their HandPrint Portraits

Curated by Gary Schneider

I left South Africa in 1977 at the age of 23. In 2011, I returned for my first exhibition there, and began making handprint portraits of South African artists. A Guggenheim Fellowship allowed me to continue the project through 2013. I embarked on the project and traveled widely in order to meet artists and, through them, understand what it means to be a South African artist two decades after the end of apartheid.

These handprints do not reveal race, economic status, gender or age. They all follow the same format. I set up a process in which the person is responsible for the information deposited in the film emulsion — it is an assisted self-portrait. The variables are their performance and gesture, the physical shape of the hand, their body chemistry, and their relationship to me.

For this exhibition at Stephen Daiter Gallery I have selected the work of thirteen artists— who are all photographers, or artists who use photography— to be exhibited along with their handprint. This is a very small group from the seventy-seven artists published in HandPrints: South African Artists, Fourthwall Books, 2015 which is itself a subset of the more than two hundred handprint portraits I made in South Africa over the three years I spent there.

All of the artworks in this exhibition are self-portraits or set-ups in which the artists are using some part of themselves, or documenting the result of a highly personal journey. There were artists whose handprint I unfortunately was not able to make, but the communications with them made the journey enormously rewarding nonetheless. It is my hope that the work of each artist in this exhibition covers as broad an approach as possible to the experience of living and working in South Africa, and that this small group represents some of the diversity of practice, gender, ethnicity, and generation that enriches our visual culture.

A fully illustrated catalog has been published in conjunction with the exhibition. Short statements submitted by the artists, and presented in the catalog, attest to the personal nature of the work they have contributed to this project. -Gary Schneider

Reception on Friday, September 20th, 5-8pm

Exhibition runs September 6 through November 30, 2019

Exhibition Date

September 6th - November 30th

Reception Time

September 20, 5- 8pm

    Additional Artists

  • Hasan and Husain Essop
  • David Goldblatt
  • Pieter Hugo
  • Donna Kukama
  • Terry Kurgan
  • Senzeni Marasela
  • Nandipha Mntambo
  • Zanele Muholi
  • Cedric Nunn
  • Jo Ractliffe
  • Mikhael Subotzky
  • Andre Tshabangu