Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations
January 20 – June 10, 2023
Opening Reception with artist conversation: January 19 from 6 to 9 pm

A woman, dressed in a pantsuit resembling a disco ball, stands on a plinth. Spotlit, she is performing for an audience in a darkened environment.

Meleko Mokgosi, Spaces of Subjection: Imaging Imaginations I, 2022 (panel 1 and 2) © Meleko Mokgosi.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Through large-scale figurative paintings depicting quotidian life to delicate portraits rendered in etching, Meleko Mokgosi’s work in Imaging Imaginations reflexively addressed the role of images in mediating our sense of self and our relation to others.

For more than a decade, Meleko Mokgosi has created imposing multi-panel paintings in which hyper-realistic depictions of Black figures are situated within narrative scenes that prompt viewers to question the ethics of democracy, structures of power, and forms of knowledge. Mokgosi’s attention to Black figures in domestic interiors, abstracted outdoor spaces, and imagined locations is always with an intent to explore a historical or theoretical concept. These concepts are most visibly signaled by his references to vernacular materials such as anti-apartheid posters, photos of political figures, and decorative objects that are specific to his generation’s coming of age in southern Africa.

For Imaging Imaginations, Mokgosi’s first solo exhibition in Canada, the artist debuted new works from his latest series, Spaces of Subjection, 2022. Within this growing body of work, Mokgosi examines the complexities of subjecthood and the politics of identity and identification. Drawing from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s writing in essays such as “The Subject and Power,” 1982, Mokgosi’s project considers questions of self-fashioning and self-determination within different physical spaces, cultural and national locations, and stages of maturation. The artworks created to debut at the Art Gallery of York University queried the role of images as societal forces that inform our sense of self and relation to others, or, in other words, subjecthood.

According to psychoanalysis, images arise in the mind from unconscious fantasies and ideas that impact our responses to real-world situations. Mokgosi is interested in French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage theory of human development that outlines the moment in infancy when we first recognize a coherent image of ourselves, through seeing our image in a mirror or identifying ourselves through the presence of another person. For Lacan, it is in the moment of recognizing our image that people are forever split between an internal, desirable, image of themselves that they strive toward throughout their life and the external sense of how they exist in the world. In essence, this stage of development illuminates the centrality of images to the process of constructing subjecthood, despite images being unreliable and prone to distortion.

Meleko Mokgosi (1981) is a Botswanan-born US-based artist and educator. He is Associate Professor at the Yale University’s School of Art and co-founder of The Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program in New York City. He received his MFA from the Interdisciplinary Studio Program at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011 and received a BA from Williams College in 2007. Mokgosi has participated in numerous residencies such as the Rauschenberg Residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, FL (2015); Artist in Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2012); and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, New York (2007). He has exhibited widely in both group and solo exhibitions, his most recent solo exhibitions including Currents 122: Meleko Mokgosi, Saint Louis Art Museum, MO (2022–2023); Pan-African Pulp, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI (2019–2022); Scripto-visual, The Current, Stowe, VT (2021); and Your Trip to Africa, Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL (2020–2021).

The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation (JWFF) was the presenting sponsor for Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations.

Parallel Programs:
Opening Reception & Artist Conversation
Thursday, January 19, 2023
6–9 pm Opening reception
6:30–7:30 pm Artist Conversation |Nick Mirkopoulos Screening Room, 004 Accolade East Building
No registration was required.

All were welcome to this celebratory opening and dialogue between the artist, Meleko Mokgosi, and the exhibition curator, Felicia Mings.

Point Of View 30-Minute Gallery Talks
Individuals were invited to experience art on their lunch break. On the first Wednesday of each month, a dynamic in-gallery conversation was held that stemmed from the interests of our speaker and an artwork on view.
No registration was required.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 | 12:30 pm | Gabrielle Moser, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, York University

Gabrielle Moser is an art historian, writer, and independent curator. She is the author of Projecting Citizenship: Photography and Belonging in the British Empire (Penn State University Press, 2019). A founding member of EMILIA-AMALIA, she is Assistant Professor of Aesthetics and Art Education in the Faculty of Education at York University.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023| 12:30 pm | Miles Collyer, Associate Director, Corporate Relations Centre for Career Design, Schulich School of Business, York University

Miles Collyer currently serves as Associate Director, Corporate Relations, at the Schulich School of Business’ Centre for Career Design. Miles provides leadership and guidance, supporting the Corporate Relations Team to foster new corporate contacts and job opportunities that meet the objectives of Schulich’s students and grads. Miles is passionate about artist-initiated activities and has served on the board of Mercer Union and worked for cultural organizations, including OCAD University, the Toronto Arts Council, and Art Metropole. He earned a joint MFA (Visual Art) and MBA from the Schulich School of Business and York University in 2015. His work has been published and exhibited across Canada and internationally.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | 12:30 pm | Tiana Reid, Assistant Professor, Department of English, York University

Tiana Reid is an assistant professor in the Department of English at York University. Her research and teaching interests include black feminist theory, gender, and labour. Prior to her return to Toronto, she was a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at Brown University. She attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute, then McGill University, and earned her PhD in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her essays and criticism have been published in American Quarterly, Artforum, BOMB, Dissent, Frieze, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The Paris Review, Theory & Event, and elsewhere. A former editor at The New Inquiry and Pinko: A Magazine of Gay Communism, she has also spent several years doing editorial work at academic journals, including Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism and Women & Performance.

Printmaking, A Collaborative Process
An online conversation between artist Meleko Mokgosi and master printer Brian Shure
Thursday, February 2, 2023| 2–3 pm | Online
Please register to attend here.

Spaces of Subjection: Imaging Imaginations IV is an artwork composed of 10 etchings, which were on view during the exhibition. The prints were created by Mokgosi and printed at Anderson Ranch Arts Center by master printer Shure. Individuals were invited to an online conversation to learn about their collaborative process.

Brian Shure apprenticed to Tamarind Master Printer Ernest DeSoto while a student at Antioch College and became a Master Printer at Editions Press and then at Crown Point Press, where he also coordinated the China Woodblock Program. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Cornell University, and conducted workshops in numerous studios in the USA, China, Japan, Mexico, and Germany. Prior to becoming Director of Anderson Ranch Editions, he was production manager at Gemini GEL in Los Angeles. He is represented by Planthouse Gallery in New York, and his work is in many public and private collections worldwide. He lives at Anderson Ranch with his wife and two children.

Speaking Volumes: Poetic Reflections on Meleko Mokgosi’s Artwork
Featuring Performances and Readings by Sincerely Shyy, Keosha Love, and SA Smythe
Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | 6–8 pm
Please register to attend here.

Through spoken word and page poetry, Sincerely Shyy, Keosha Love, and SA Smythe presented responsive poetic meditations that expanded upon the themes raised by Mokgosi’s artworks. Guests were invited to light refreshments in the gallery lobby at 6 pm and poetry at 7 pm.

Sincerely Shyy is a queer Caribbean artist living outside of Toronto who pushes the envelope of social justice by creating Black narratives and Queer characters of color. A writer by nature, educator by profession, and poet at heart, Sincerely Shyy’s work lies at the intersections of healing and language. She is best known for creating spaces that transform silence into shouting through performance art, revolutionary acts of writing, and self-love.
With roots in Guyana, Sincerely Shyy ascends from a matriarchal lineage of West African and Afro Indigenous ancestry via a surviving legacy of middle passage, immigration, and alchemy. Through her artistic practice she explores the ways race, class, gender, and sexuality impact our mental health and well-being.

Keosha Love is an award-winning artist, activist, and educator who creates spaces for wellness and collective liberation in diverse communities. As a poet and writer, Keosha is recognized for centering generational healing, womanism, and self-actualization in her work. She closely explores the diverse narratives and identities of Black and racialized people to promote liberation and empowerment. In 2016, Keosha founded Our Women’s Voices, a Toronto-based non-for-profit focused on amplifying the voices of women and making social change through arts, education, and community organizing. Keosha has worked in partnership with Facebook, Nike, The Raptors, Art Gallery of York University, and Never Apart Magazine. Her piece “A Prayer for Black Women” has been shared nationally and featured in CBC’s Poetic License. In 2021, Keosha hosted her debut interview series, Black & Vulnerable, also on CBC, and is now venturing into the world of screenwriting and film. With a BA in Psychology and roots in creative arts, Keosha also teaches workshops on mental health, creative writing, and social justice. Most recently, Keosha was the recipient of the Community Hero Award presented by TFC for her contributions towards her community. Ultimately, Keosha Love is a storyteller and driven change-maker who has become a well-recognized voice that inspires others to use theirs.

SA Smythe is a poet, transdisciplinary artist, translator, and critical theorist committed to black belonging beyond all borders. They are the editor of “Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity,” a special issue for Postmodern Culture, and of the forthcoming volume Transnational Black Studies (Liverpool University Press). They are the author of the forthcoming monograph Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis Culture and the Black Mediterranean and the poetry collection proclivity. Their transmedia artwork has been featured in collaborative and solo exhibitions installations and festivals. Smythe joined the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information as Assistant Professor of Black Studies and the Archive in July 2022. They are a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Transgender Studies and serve on the scholarly council of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). Winner of the 2022 Rome Prize, Smythe is primarily based between Tkaronto, Rome, and occupied Tongva land (Los Angeles).

Imaging Imaginations: Storytime for children ages 2 to 6 with their caregivers
Saturday, March 25, 2023 | 10:30–11:30am
No registration was required.

In celebration of National Reading Month, guests were inited to. the gallery for children’s stories, songs, and rhymes which drew inspiration from the works in Imaging Imaginations. Light refreshments were provided in the gallery lobby.

All programs took place at the AGYU unless noted otherwise.


See also


Meleko Mokgosi
10 May 2023

Exhibition documentation

Exhibition documentation
Exhibition documentation
20 Jan – 10 Jun 2023

Opening Night

Opening Night
Meleko Mokgosi
19 Jan 2023

Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations

Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations
20 Jan – 10 Jun 2023




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