Gallery Oldham is delighted to be able to showcase the work of one of the most important artists to emerge from South Africa in the 20th century. The work of Albert Adams, from the collection of the University of Salford, will be on show from November 30 until April 19.
Albert Adams was born near Johannesburg in 1930, the child of Indian and Cape Coloured (mixed race) parents. His mother, who worked as a domestic servant, was not allowed to have her children with her so he was brought up initially by another family and later by his grandmother.
Albert’s artistic talent was recognised early on but he was growing up in Apartheid South Africa, where students of different races were not allowed to study together, and black students not allowed to take life drawing classes. Instead Albert went to teacher training college, paying his way by working as a shop sign writer. Here he was lucky to meet two German refugees from Nazi Germany who recognised and encouraged his talent.
He won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London in 1953 and another to Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in Munich. Here he met the great Austrian expressionist Oskar Kokoschka who, along with Francisco de Goya, had a profound influence on his work. Albert returned to South Africa after attending Slade but by 1960 was back in London, where he remained for most of his life.
The exhibition at Oldham includes a number of oil paintings from these early years, including engaging colourful portraits of friends, such as Miss Rhoda Samuels and a striking early woodcut self-portrait from 1958.
Apart from his monumental work South Africa 1959, which is in Johannesburg Art Gallery, Albert’s work rarely engaged with the issue of apartheid in an obvious, literal way. Instead he often explored human violence and oppression as part of the universal human condition. Prints such as ‘Cell’ and ‘The Prisoner’ may have had a personal resonance for Albert as three of his cousins served long prison sentences for political activities, one of them with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. In later life he returned many times to the image of the Ape in paintings and prints and many of these are included in this exhibition.
The show also includes a number of personal items from Albert’s collection, including a collection of Indian Monkey masks, related to the Hindu god Hanuman.
In 2005 Albert said, “When I visited India for the first time, I discovered that I had an enormous relationship with the land – mostly visual. I looked at the people and thought how closely I resembled them.”
Albert was interested in exploring his Indian and African heritage and the exhibition includes sculptures such as Mende masks from Sierra Leone and Indian embroidered textiles from his personal collection.
Councillor Jean Stretton Cabinet Member for Cooperatives and Neighbourhoods, said, “Gallery Oldham is once again showcasing the work of a major international artist, which cements its reputation as an outstanding venue and a place people will want to visit.”
The collection was given to the University of Salford by Albert Adams’ partner Edward Glennon, through the Art Fund. Gallery Oldham Curator, Dinah Winch, will be giving a talk on December 11 at 2pm. This is free and there is no need to book.
There will be a special event to celebrate our winter season of exhibitions on Saturday, February 1st when the gallery will host several speakers, including Edward Glennon. Refreshments will be available.
Please contact Dinah Winch on 0161 770 4632 for more information.