Nicholas Hlobo (b. 1975, Cape Town, South Africa; lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa) began his career around the end of apartheid in 1994, when there was a new sense of freedom and national pride in South Africa. With the eradication of legalized and enforced discrimination and segregation, Hlobo and his peers were empowered to openly voice their opinions and ideas under the protection of new laws, and Hlobo’s subtle commentary on the democratic realities of his home country and concerns with the changing international discourse of art formed a foundational tenet of his practice. Hlobo uses metaphorically charged materials such as ribbon, leather, wood, and rubber detritus, which he melds and weaves together to create two- and three-dimensional hybrid objects that are intricate and seductively tactile. Each material holds a particular association with cultural, gendered, sexual, or ethnic identities, and the works form complex visual narratives that reflect the various dichotomies present within the artist’s home country, as well as those that exist around the world. The results are highly evocative, and the artist combines anthropomorphic imagery with cultural symbols and traditions to create amalgamated forms that feel at once familiar, alien, and ancient. At its core, Hlobo’s practice engages themes of self-discovery and explores the intersections of race, gender, and cultural and sexual identity within the context of his South African heritage.
Hlobo received a fine art degree from Johannesburg’s Technikon Witwatersrand in 2002. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel (2021); Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2019); The Maitland Institute, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Cape Town, South Africa (2017); Uppsala Art Museum, Uppsala, Sweden (2017); Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, the Netherlands (2016); Locust Projects, Miami, FL (2013); National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo, Norway (2011); Savannah College of Art and Design, Lacoste, France (2010); Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2008); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2008); and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, GA (2007). Recent group exhibitions featuring his work include Allied with Power: African and African Diaspora Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL (2020); Alpha Crucis, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2020); In the Spotlight of the Night - Life in the Gloom, Marta Herford Museum for Art, Architecture, Design, Herford, Germany (2019); Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019); Queer Abstraction, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS (2019); Material Insanity, Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakesh, Morocco (2019); Face to Face: From Yesterday to Today, Non-Western Art and Picasso, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada (2018); After the Thrill is Gone: Fashion, Politics, and Culture in Contemporary South African Art, The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA (2018); Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (2017); Energy and Process, Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2016); The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2014), and Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. (2015); A History (art architecture design, from the 80s to now), Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2015); Intense Proximity, La Triennale 2012, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2012); and Flow, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2008). Hlobo has participated in multiple biennials including the 11th Liverpool Biennial (2021); the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); the 6th Liverpool Biennial (2010); and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008).
His work is included in numerous international public and private collections, including the Arquipelago – Centro de Artes Contemporaneas, Azores, Portugal; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa; Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Unisa – University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Cape Town, South Africa.
Hlobo has received several honors and distinctions such as the Villa Extraordinary Award for Sculpture, The Claire & Edoardo Villa Will Trust, Midrand, South Africa (2016); Rolex Visual Arts Protégé (2010-11); Standard Bank Young Artist Award, Standard Bank of South Africa (2009); and the Tollman Award for Visual Art (2006).