Throughout their career, deSouza has engaged with historical events, works of literature, and cultural figures, which provoke a reexamination of seemingly central cultural values, often embraced by their sharp sense of wit. deSouza has also explored, poetically, their personal but universal notions of time, aging and death and how memory and photography are both formed and transformed over time, and at times allowing even the coexisting of our past and present.
Frequently hovering between figuration and abstraction, subjectivity and neutrality, the real and the fictional, deSouza’s works excavate historical, cultural, and ideological constructs, examining the relationship between narratives of collective identity, individual experience and art history.
"My personal interests are less in constructions of what “African” art might be and more in the questions they pose and the omissions they expose in the “architecture” of global contemporary art and its formation through Eurocentric discourses. These are some of the larger projects which the “undisciplined” needs to infiltrate, not to form new disciplines or reform existing ones of the “African,” but to un-‐discipline our understandings of the global contemporary; and not only to unmoor them from xenophobic and nationalist formations, but to reframe them as localized and translocal artistic practices."
Al-An deSouza’s works have been exhibited extensively including at The Pompidou Centre, Paris; Museum Kunst Palast, Germany; Moderna Museet, Sweden; Mori Art Museum, Japan; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa; Hayward Gallery, UK; International Center of Photography, NY; Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands; Museo Tamayo, Mexico; Memphis Brooks Museum, TN; Museum for African Art, NY; Smithsonian Museum, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gwangju Biennale, Korea; 3rd Guangzhou Triennale, China; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF; Fowler Museum, LA; Blaffer Art Museum, TX; and Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL. In 2011, on an invitation by The Phillip’s Collection, deSouza created The World Series in response to Lawrence’s Migration Series, and their work was subsequently featured in a solo exhibition at the museum along with Lawrence’s works.
deSouza was born in 1958 in Nairobi, Kenya to immigrant parents of Indian descent and grew up in the United Kingdom. In 1983, they graduated from the Bath Academy of Fine Art, England with a BA in Fine Art (Honors). From 1993-1994 they pursued Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Studies Program in New York, USA. They obtained their MFA in Photography from UCLA, California, USA in 1997.
They live and work in the Bay Area, California, where they are Chair of the Department of Art Practice at University of California, Berkeley. Their recent publications include “How Art Can Be Thought: A Handbook for Change” (2018) and “Ark of Martyrs” (2020).