Dineo Seshee Bopape’s installation sa ____ ke lerole, (sa lerole ke ___), 2016, is both map and terrain. A thick slab of compressed earth fills the gallery, leaving a narrow perimeter around the room’s edge to view it from, so you end up like a general overlooking a plan of attack on a strategy relief. Some of the things that litter the dirt’s surface look schematic: near-identical florets of pressed earth and hand-squeezed gobs of hardened clay. But their materiality is too insistent for them to belong to a legend, and it’s amplified by the alluring array of textures that mingle with the ground: a fluffy pelt, flower petals, bits of charred wood, a mysterious white powder, and gold leaf that lines divots and gutters. Holes pock the surface. In a map, a hole could indicate an omission or a flaw, but in the earth it signals a history of a presence—the remainder of a burrow, a footprint, or an explosion. But reflections on what any of these marks might signify stop when you turn around and see dirt smeared on the wall—an abrupt confrontation with the thing itself. —Brian Droitcour
Pictured: Installation view of Dineo Seshee Bopape’s sa ____ ke lerole, (sa lerole ke ___), 2016. Courtesy Art in General, New York.