Ralph Ziman. Ghosts

8 Feb — 2 Mar 2014 at C.A.V.E. Gallery in Los Angeles, United States

27 JANUARY 2014

C.A.V.E. Gallery is pleased to present Ralph Ziman in the artist’s first solo show, Ghosts. Ziman, who is known locally for his Venice Beach murals, is a South African artist, photographer, filmmaker, and advocate emerging in the United States.

Ghosts will feature a series of photographs, sculptures and installations produced during the artist’s collaboration with Zimbabwean street vendors on a series of handmade replica AK47s.

There will be an opening night party at the gallery, from 6-9:30 pm, with specially selected South African Kwaito music to celebrate this premier US exhibition by the artist.

Proceeds from Ghosts will go to Human Rights Watch.

Ziman’s work challenges the tragic cliché of our times: a war torn, violent Africa of militant and corrupt dictators, child soldiers, and unceasing civil wars fed by a growing international arms trade.

Intrigued by the duality of terror and worship that firearms hold in African culture, Ziman approached artisans working in the streets of Johannesburg to commission a series of the infamous AK47 rendered in traditional Shona style beading. Originating as a side project while Ziman was directing Kite (the Samuel L. Jackson backed anime adapted film, starring Jackson, India Eisley and Callan McAuliffe, to be released internationally in 2014) - Ghosts developed into a six month collaboration and multidisciplinary exhibition.

The resulting work of over 200 hand beaded and wire wrapped guns, incorporated in installations and photographs of the men posing with them, confronts the complex socioeconomic and political circumstances of the African arms trade - a multinational, multibillion dollar industry that moves in one direction only—into Africa.

For Ziman, the series is platform to discuss the corruption, greed and influence of foreign world superpowers who, eager for a stake in Africa’s abundant natural resources, provide weapons to dictatorial governments in trade, and often to opposing factions as well, ensuring a perpetual cycle of war for generations. Political leaders, many who ascend from the military in bloody coups and freedom fights, pass their fervor for firearms on to their countrymen, where a black market fuels a cultural climate that reveres automatic weapons as status symbols of power, authority, and self determination.

The street vendors who Ziman photographs with their crafted prop AKs required no direction in how to pose with them, brandishing their guns with the swagger of rebels and rappers, the image of weapon in hand is as synonymous as the pledge of allegiance. Crates of guns to be installed throughout the gallery and on walls, point to the unrelenting presence of guns flowing into African countries trading their natural bounty for body counts. Ghosts, in poignant and powerful imagery, aims to confront this cycle by building global awareness of the international arms trade that profits on the suffering and oppression of millions of Africans.

Ralph Ziman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1963. Ralph has directed over 400 videos for artists as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and Rick James, winning numerous MTV awards. His work in film includes over 6 features as a writer/director/producer including Hearts and Minds, the first independent South African feature film to be completed after apartheid, premiered at the Berlin and Montreal International Film Festivals, and Jerusalema (Gangster’s Paradise in the US & UK), released to critical and box office acclaim and South Africa’s official entry to the 2008 Academy Award Foreign Language section. His public art includes five murals in Venice and a forthcoming one privately commissioned in Santa Monica. Ralph lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children where he maintains a studio in Venice Beach and is focusing on his art practice and a planned documentary component to the Ghosts series.