Catheris Mondombo: Faces of Kinshasa

Installation Views

Ethan Cohen Gallery is proud to announce Faces of Kinshasa, Catheris Mondombo’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Faces of Kinshasa features 10 of Mondombo’s artworks that stitch together abstracted portraits of people and life in Kinshasa, Congo.


Catheris Mondombo creates haunted, powerful Congolese portraits with the fusion of found art and highly evocative painterly composition. He paints on canvases of stitched-together workaday fabrics such as discarded tarpaulin detritus left behind by Kinshasha's ubiquitous market stalls. They are pieces of the city that seem to articulate their own human images as if the artist is merely acting as medium to hidden forces. On such weathered, bruised backgrounds, the products of coarse utility, he imbues faces that life has textured with comparable struggle for survival. The used, abandoned and recovered plastic-coated sheeting is eloquent of abandonment as an existential condition, redeemed by the determination to repair, renew and recreate. 


The faces, sometimes shadowy silhouettes, float weightlessly on the canvases simultaneously robust and fragile, anonymous, poignant and even triumphant as they emerge intact. Mondombo calls them cosmonauts: they drift unclaimed, unidentifiable, through the chaos of Congo's urban adversity. The 29-year-old artist's life experience informs his art. He has lived through civil wars, poverty, and incessant struggle in pursuit of his art. There are no galleries in his country. There is no immediate market for an artist's work. Nor is there encouragement from family for such a tenuous profession. Yet he has survived by the tenacity of his calling and the outstanding quality of his work. He has been noticed by connoisseurs and collectors from other countries and continents, by gallerists in France and the US. 


Also on view will be his newest series of paintings entitled Notre Histoire (Our History). They explore themes of Congo's colonial past and alienated present, the sweepings of consumerism and etiolated urbanization. Denim materials, faded, torn, patched together, held barely in place yet interweaving to provide organic terrain for an added layer of textured paint. Around the portraits crystallize glimpsed images of cityscapes, floating figures, motorcycles, fuel cannisters, the lost artifacts of self in a disembodied urban cosmos. Memory and identity swim and emerge in the form of half-realized faces.