Karel Nel
Status of Dust

4 November 2002 - February 2003


3-21 December
Art First at Hall & Knight Ltd.
Hall & Knight Ltd.,
21 East 67th Street,
New York, NY 10021


The title of South African artist Karel Nel's first solo exhibition in New ork, Status of Dust, is linked to notions of deep time and the information encoded within the formless substance which for centuries has been a metaphor for birth and death, "dust to dust." In a distinctive and powerful combination of the conceptual and the physical, Nel's art deals with the interface between experience and its notation in some form - the ways in which we inscribe individual and collective consciousness into the material world.  

In large works distilled to a primal minimalism, saturated in colored pigments used since archaic times in initiatory ceremonies of  birth,  death, and transition, using earth, glassy volcanic sand, and rare plant materials collected from remote regions, Nel's art alludes to a world of original contemplation. His engagement with the earth and a concrete metaphysics stems from his immediate environment in South Africa, but the material used in the work reflects his nomadic journeying to both remote and highly urban locations in pursuit of his interest in sacred cultures, as well as his work as an internationally recognized collector and curator of African archaic art and artifacts. Each piece in the exhibition is shown with a small map indicating the ontogeological  origins and historical antecedents of the materials used. The starkly simplified forms of three works, Zero, Monument, and Eleven incorporate earth collected from the void of Ground Zero in New York in January 2002.

One of South Africa's most distinguished and internationally respected  artists, Nel has won numerous international awards, commissions, and  residencies. Based in Johannesburg, he is Associate Professor of Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. His expertise in the area of southern African art has led institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum in London to seek his advice in their representation of that region's cultural traditions. His work can be found in every museum and public collection in South Africa.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. acquired a major work in 1999.

The exhibition Status of Dust will be shown concurrently at two locations in New York City, opening at Art First New York on November 21, 2002, and at Art First at Hall & Knight Ltd. on December 3, 2002.

An exhibition catalogue is for sale.