Tracey Rose is best known for her performances, video installations, and photographs. She attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in Fine Arts where she obtained her B.A. in 1996. She taught at Vaal Triangle Technikon, Vanderbijl Park, South Africa and at the University of the Witwatersrand. In February and March 2001 she was artist-in-residence in Cape Town at the South African National Gallery where she developed her work for the Venice Biennale 2001 curated by Harald Szeemann. Tracey Rose is represented in the US by Christian Haye of The Project.

Since her mid nineties graduation from the University of Witwatersrand, Rose has had an extremely busy few years internationally, as her CV shows. In much of her work in this time, Rose has investigated questions of gender and colour, often through the visual motifs of her own body and body hair. In Ongetiteld (Untitled), shown on ‘Democracys Images’ at the Bildmuseet in Umeå�, Sweden in 1998, Rose again used surveillance cameras to film herself shaving off all of her bodily hair. In the catalogue, Rose describes this act as being “about both demasculating and de-feminising my body, shaving off the masculine and feminine hair. This kind of de-sexualisation carries with it a certain kind of violence. The piece is about making myself unattractive and unappealing. But what was disconcerting was that I suddenly became attractive to a whole different group of people. Perhaps there was not enough of a sense of penance and flagellation in the work.”

For ‘Graft’, the Colin Richards curated show at the SANG on the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, Rose presented Span I and Span II. In this, Rose sat with shaved head on a sideways TV displaying a closeup image of a reclining nude, a classic art history image. Head bent, Rose busied herself with knotting strands of her own shaven hair. The bravura performance took place inside a glass cabinet. Rose says, “With my naked body on the TV I wanted to negate the passivity of the action of the reclining nude. In doing the piece, I had to confront what I wasn’t supposed to do with my body. The work is a cleansing act, a coming out. The knotting not only invokes the rosary beads of my childhood, but also the working with one’s hands, and the meaning of this handiwork as a form of empowerment”. In Span I, the complementary part of the piece, a red-overalled prisoner incised text on to the opposite wall of the gallery, memories from Rose’s childhood, often dealing with the role that hair, how straight it was, how curly, and thus how it defined race, had played in her childhood. “The wall’s a purge and a perversion of the idea of a lack of penance, where I become vindicated through the act of employing an ex-prisoner to ‘perform’ my confession.”

Rose’s work responds to the limitations of dogma and the flaws in institutionalised cultural discourse. Always evident in her work is the artist’s insistence in confronting the politics of identity, including sexual, racial, and gender-based themes. According to Jan Avgikos, “part of Rose’s appeal is her fluid referencing of ’60s and ’70s performance art”.

Tracey Rose
Tracey Rose
Durban, 1974
South Africa

Past Exhibitions

Through Women’s Eyes – Sguardo di Donna

Casa dei Tre Oci
10/09/2015 — 10/01/2016

My Joburg

La Maison Rouge
20/06/2013 — 22/09/2013

Solo Shows

Tracey Rose, Lassooing With The Post Colonial Pirates, Dan Gunn, Berlin

Tracey Rose, (x), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Tracey Rose, Dan Gunn, Berlin

Waiting for God, Kunsthallen Nikolaj, Copenhagen

Group Shows

32ª Bienal de São Paulo – Incerteza viva, Bienal de Sao Paulo, São Paulo (upcoming)
L’Iris de Lucy, Musée Départemental d’Art Contemporain de Rochechouart, Rochechouart
New Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Show, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Johannesburg
New Revolutions, Goodman Gallery, Cape, Cape Town
Dak’art 2016, Dak’Art Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, Dakar
Eva International 2016, Still (the) Barbarians, c/o Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick
El iris de Lucy. Artistas africanas contemporáneas, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), Léon

Body Talk, Féminisme, Sexualité & Corps, 49 NORD 6 EST – Frac Lorraine, Metz
Project 35: The Last Act, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow
Álbum de Família, Centro de Artes Helio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Body Talk, Lunds konsthall, Lund
Speaking Back, Goodman Gallery Cape, Cape Town
Speaking Back, Goodman Gallery, Cape, Cape Town
Arte contemporânea na Coleção Sindika Dokolo, You Love Me, You Love Me Not – Municipal Gallery Almeida Garrett, Porto
Body Talk: féminisme, sexualité et corps dans l’œuvre de six artistes africaines, WIELS – Centrum voor Hedendaagse kunst, Brussels

Teoria del color, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City

My Joburg, Kunstszene Johannesburg, Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, Dresden
Transit, ICCO Instituto de Cultura Contemporanea, São Paulo
My Joburg, La Maison Rouge, Paris
Le Pont, MAC Musées d´Art Contemporain Marseille, Marseille
Editions, Goodman Gallery Cape, Cape Town
Female Power, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem – MMKA, Arnhem

OC Collects, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
The World is not fair, Die große Weltausstellung 2012, Tempelhofer Park/Ehem. Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin
Project 35, Kunsthaus CentrePasquArt, Centre d’Art, Biel/Bienne
Transit_Salvador, MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia, Salvador
Aire de Lyon, Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires

Contacts & Details

City of birth: Durban Country of birth: South Africa Date of birth: 1974 Lives in: Johannesburg, South Africa