Nicholas Hlobo (b. 1975, Cape Town, South Africa; lives and works in Johannesburg) began his career around the end of apartheid in 1994, when there was a new sense of freedom and national pride in South Africa. With the eradication of legalized and enforced discrimination and segregation, Hlobo and his peers were empowered to openly voice their opinions and ideas under the protection of these new laws. Hlobo’s subtle commentary on the democratic realities of his home country and concerns with the changing international discourse of art remain at the core of his work. Using tactile materials such as ribbon, leather, wood, and rubber detritus that he melds and weaves together, Hlobo creates intricate two- and three-dimensional hybrid objects. Each material holds a particular association with cultural, gendered, sexual, or ethnic identity. Together, the works create a complex visual narrative that reflects the cultural dichotomies of Hlobo’s native South Africa as well as those that exist around the world. His evocative, anthropomorphic imagery and metaphorically charged materials elucidate the artist’s own multifaceted identity within the context of his South African heritage.
Hlobo received a fine art degree from Johannesburg’s Technikon Witwatersrand in 2002. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art in Savannah, GA (2019); Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden (2017); Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, Netherlands (2016); Locust Project, Miami (2013); National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2011); Savannah College of Art and Design, Lacoste, France (2010); Tate Modern, London (2008); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2008); and SCAD Museum of Art, GA (2007). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Delirious, Lustwarande Foundation, Tilburg, The Netherlands (2019); Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019); Material Insanity, Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakesh, Morocco (2019); Face to Face: From Yesterday to Today, Non-Western Art and Picasso, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada (2018); After the Thrill is Gone: Fashion, Politics, and Culture in Contemporary South African Art, The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA (2018); Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton (2017); Energy and Process, Tate Modern, London (2016); The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, traveled to SCAD Museum of Art, GA (2014); and Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (2015); A History (art architecture design, from the 80s to now), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015); Intense Proximity, La Triennale 2012, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012); and Flow, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008). Hlobo has participated in multiple biennials including the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); the 6th Liverpool Biennial (2010); and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008). His work is included in numerous international public and private collections, including the Arquipelago – Centro de Artes Contemporaneas, Azores, Portugal; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Unisa – University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Cape Town, South Africa.
Hlobo has received numerous honors and distinctions such as the Rolex Visual Arts Protégé (2010-11); Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2009); and the Tollman Award for Visual Art (2006).