C&: "The Blackbody Against the Green Screen"

Sabo Kpade, Contemporary&, November 6, 2020

In his blackbody series, the Botswana artist Thebe Phetogo pulls references from his immediate Lagos surroundings while drawing inspiration from pan-African modernist masters.


For his inaugural solo exhibition in Nigeria, Thebe Phetogo has created ten new paintings in his blackbody series, made during a residency at Arthouse Foundation, in Lagos, in the first quarter of 2020. This exhibition follows numerous group exhibitions in South Africa and in his native Botswana.


Phetogo’s operating framework gathers together techniques, theory, and history absorbed from a variety of disciplines. The lime-green hue throughout this series references the chroma of greenscreen technologies, which are commonly used to combine videos and images in cinematography. Another starting point is the scientific philosophy of a “blackbody” in physics, which is defined as an idealized surface capable of absorbing light of every wavelength. The paintings incorporate multiple bodies that float within an imaginary greenscreen space, in varying degrees of translucency and opacity. The characters and actions in Phetogo’s paintings often allude to specific popular culture and art historical references, and here they create a consistent thread throughout the series....