Best Gallery Exhibit Miami 2014 - "Intethe (Sketch for an Opera)"
At the end of the 19th Century, a swarm of locusts ravaged South Africa, wiping out croplands and forcing local tribesmen to seek work in the recently discovered gold and diamond mines. For his first major project in Miami, South African sculptor Nicholas Hlobo, who is known for his sprawling, room-engulfing installations, used the colonial-era disaster that decimated a way of life as the inspiration behind a sweeping, experimental opera sketch called "Intethe," which translates to "locust" in the language of the Xhosa people from his native land and also references the gallery's name. At Locust, Hlobo deftly channeled the ghosts of colonialism with a haunting collection of eight monumental steel sculptures swaddled in mantles confected from truck tire inner tubes and swathes of lace. Bristling air valve nozzles and rainbow-hued ribbons also added to the baleful nature of the works. Hlobo collaborated with local Haitian musicians Papaloko and Loray Mistik during the opening performance to underscore notions of shared identity throughout the global African diaspora as part of the edgy work. Also referencing issues of racial, sexual, and gender identity, the powerful exhibit projected subtitles in the Xhosa language onto the mystifying stage Hlobo had set, while white-clad musicians summoned the spirits of their ancestors through ritual drum beats and bellowing conch shell blasts. Visitors to Locust were also treated to the spectacle of Over and Under, a massive hand-loomed expanse of canvas, spilling from a floor-to-ceiling scaffold created by homegrown talent Frances Trombly in the gallery's project room. The results of Locust's striking Art Basel offering made for an eclectic showcase that became laser-engraved on Miami's collective memory.