Talwar Gallery is pleased to present, Trysts Tropicales, an exhibition of works by Allan deSouza. These works build on deSouza’s continued engagement with manifestations of desire and loss, whether through the personal or collective experience of the colonial encounter and its legacies.
In Trysts Tropicales, Allan deSouza stages the lingering traces of “colonialism’s culture” as a complex of elusive desires and lost fantasies. On view are two bodies of photographic works, Rdctns and Third Eye. In the Rdctns series, deSouza revisits paintings by Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau. The two iconic modernist artists were selected as different tropes of escape, Rousseau having never left France yet creating tropical fantasies, and Gauguin who was constantly traveling in search of a physical paradise. In the Third Eye series, deSouza replays his own encounter with Western art history through a series of self-portraits by different canonical artists, from Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol.
At first sight, the works in both series might appear as color abstractions, but a closer viewing reveals their figurative sources. The dominant color in each work is determined from a particular spot in the original painting: in the Rdctns, the color is chosen from the “furthest point,” usually the horizon line; while in the Third Eye the color is selected from the mid-forehead of each self-portrait, the site of the proverbial “third eye.” Each work is created from a laborious process of digital “erasure” that falls somewhere between rubbing out and a rubbing, bringing the illusionistic depths––the lost horizons––to the literal surface of each image.
"These might be abstractions but they have very real consequences, so as an artist it's not a question of abstraction or representation but to use whatever vocabularies are necessary to make the image strange or newly encountered, and to direct the viewer to what informs our framing values."
Allan 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 his 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, he graduated from the Bath Academy of Fine Art, England with a BA in Fine Art (Honors). From 1993-1994 he pursued Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Studies Program in New York, USA. He obtained his MFA in Photography from UCLA, California, USA in 1997.
He lives and works in the Bay Area, California, where he is Chair of the Department of Art Practice at University of California, Berkeley. His recent publications include “How Art Can Be Thought: A Handbook for Change” (2018) and “Ark of Martyrs” (2020).