Manfred Zylla

Born 1939. Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa & Munich, Germany.

Zylla was born in Augsberg, Germany and as a child experienced the ravages and aftermath of World War II. He became an artist in 1958, he was nineteen years old. Not able to afford a studio, him, together with two fellow artists, Frieder Pfister and Otto Geiss, painted in nature and regularly staged live painting “happenings” in the center of Augsberg. One these performances were mentioned in the local newspaper. The accompanying image shows the artists dressed in black, sporting black berets, with their shoes and legs of their easels buried in deep snow. The three of us were dedicated artists and the cheapest and most obvious way to prove this was to wear berets. We used to sit in the local coffee houses debating Brecht and may other great writers and poets. Smoking cigars added to the mystique.

Zylla’s practice is grounded in an aesthetic of resistance; his intention in becoming an artist was to use his art as a tool for change. Subjected to discrimination from a young age (both his parents were deaf) Zylla turned to his art as a means to address the ills within humanity. Resident in South Africa since 1970, he became prominent as an artist highly critical of Apartheid in the 1980’s with a stream of hard-hitting drawings, prints and paintings. These works are widely acknowledged as critical for understanding resistance art, an important chapter in South African art history. Most of his works produced during that time are now in museum collections.

Those live painting performances of his late teenage years have remained an integral part of Zylla’s artistic expression and is well documented in his biography Manfred Zylla art & resistance. The most well-known event (in South Africa) being Inter-Actions when Zylla requested and encouraged the participation of his local community in a performance piece. At the opening of the exhibition, on 5 June 1982, Zylla urged his friends and fellow artists: Let’s not write our graffiti in the night; let’s do it now. We must not hold back. Work spontaneously, intuitively. Time is running out. I have done what I can do alone, now let’s go on together. The nine drawings which took the artist one year to complete were transformed at the event; and are now in the permanent collection of the South African National Gallery.

On 12 March 2014 Zylla gave a live drawing performance at the opening of his solo exhibition, I Want to Swim a Thousand Miles. In the company of his audience he transformed a Karoo landscape into a strong protest against fracking in that region. He gave a second live drawing performance at the Cape Town Art Fair in 2015 which is illustrated here.

Zylla uses his art as a means to confront reality, as a tool for change. He continues to work within a paradigm of social critique. His work comments on current and topical issues including globalization, urbanization, climate change, exploitation of natural resources, alternative energy, and most importantly, attitudes towards disability.

Exhibitions

2018 Once When We Were Free Erdmann Contemporary, South Africa
2017 Turbine Art Fair Johannesburg, South Africa
2017 Fur Jeden Etwas Galerie Lanz 7, Munich, Germany
2017 Beyond Binaries Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
2016 Beyond Binaries Essence Festival, Durban, South Africa
2016 District Six 50th Commemorative Print Exchange Cape Town South Africa
2016 Mares & Zylla Lanz 7 Gallery, Munich, Germany
2016 Turbine Art Fair Johannesburg
2016 Pressure Point Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town
2016 Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town International Convention Centre
2016 Studio – Celebrating the Lives and Work of South African Artists, South African National Gallery, Cape Town
2015 Co-Existence II Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2015 Beijing Biennale Beijing, China
2015 Twenty: Contemporary South African Art University of Johannesburg, South Africa
2015 Cape Town Art Fair Cape Town, South Africa
2015 Breaking Surface Galerie NOKO, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
2015 The Industrial Karoo - Fear and Loss Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, South Africa
2014 The Trouble With Memory Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2014 The Secret Garden Museo di Villa Vecchia, Rome, Italy
2014 Prints & Drawings 1960 - 1990 Lanz 7 Gallery, Munich, Germany
2014 The Industrial Karoo - Fear and Loss Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa
2014 Twenty: Contemporary South African Art The Appalachian State University, North Carolina, United States
2014 I want to Swim a Thousand Miles, solo exhibition Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2013 Crossing the Divide Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2013 Zylla & Erasmus, two person exhibition EineWeltHaus, Munich, Germany
2013 120 Days of Sodom, solo exhibition Lanz 7 Gallery, Munich, Germany
2013 Re-Drawn Conclusion ErdmannContemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2012 In Retrospect, solo exhibition Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa
2012 In Retrospect, solo exhibition William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberly, South Africa
2012 In Retrospect, solo exhibition Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
2010 Again and Again, solo exhibition Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2010 Future Memories, solo exhibition Centro Luigi Di Sarro, Rome, Italy
2009 Havana Bienale Cuba
2007 Scratching the Surface of South African Art Dehli & Mumbai, India
2007 Art & Revolution Tehran, Iran
2007 New Paintings, solo exhibition Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
2006 Faces of Saron solo exhibition Artscape Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa
2006 Mixed Messages solo exhibition Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
2005 Works on Paper 1960 to 2005 solo exhibition Erdmann Contemporary,South Africa
2004 Resistence, Reconciliation & Reconstruction MTN Foundation,South Africa
2004 Unauthorized solo exhibition Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa
2003 Solo exhibition Interim, Munich, Germany
2002 Solo exhibition EineWeltHaus, Munich, Germany
1998 Solo exhibition Dritte Welt Café, Munich, Germany
1997 Handicap International traveling exhibition, Munich, Berlin, Augburg, Germany
1996 Solo exhibition Hörbach Festival, Hörbach, Germany
1993 Solo exhibition Dritte Welt Café, Munich, Germany
1993 Solo exhibition Ecke Galerie Kneipe, Augsburg, Germany
1992 Solo exhibition Glockenbachwerkstatt, Munich, Germany
1991 Art des Foyer Munich, Germany
1990 Solo exhibition South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
1989 South African Anti-Apartheid Festival Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1986 Two person traveling exhibition Amnesty International, Munich, Germany
1982 Inter-Action solo exhibition Community Arts Project (CAP), Cape Town, South Africa
1980 Solo exhibition South African Association of Art, Cape Town, South Africa
1978 Solo exhibition Kleine Schlossgalerie, Munich, Germany
1975 Solo exhibition The Space Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa
1975 Solo exhibition on the passenger liner Europa
1966 Solo exhibition Ecke Stuben, Augsburg, Germany
1965 Solo exhibition Obere Stube, Ulm, Germany

Collections

Durban Art Gallery, South Africa
Farley Blackman, Private Collection, London, United Kingdom
Pier Giorgio Novelli, Private Collection, Rome, Italy
Spier, Corporate Collection, Cape Town, South Africa
Nando’s Corporate Collection, London, United Kingdom
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Permanent Collection, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Permanent Collection, Kimberley, South Africa
Handicap International, Permanent Collection, Munich, Germany
SASOL, Corporate Collection, Johannesburg, South Africa
ESCOM, Corporate Collection, Johannesburg, South Africa
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Permanent Collection, Bloemfontein, South Africa
South African National Gallery, Permanent Collection, Cape Town, South Africa
Pretoria Art Museum, Permanent Collection, Pretoria, South Africa

Public Murals

EineWeltHaus, Munich, Germany, South Africa
Community House, Cape Town, South Africa
Artscape, Cape Town, South Africa

Publications

A Morning with Manfred Zylla E-Book 2016
Throw Everyting Together and Add Exhibition Catalogue 2015
120 Days of Sodom Manfred Zylla ErdmannContemporary Limited Edition Publication 2015
Recent Works 2005 to 2015 E-Book 2014
I want to Swim a Thousand Miles Exhibition Catalogue 2014
Art & Resistance, ErdmannContemporary Limited Edition Publication, 2012

Reviews

DANTEMag Feature - September 2015
Suddeutsche Zeitung Review - 6 June 2015
Weekend Argus Ivor Powell Review - 13 April 2014.
Art South Africa Daniel Hewson Review - Volume 12, Issue 04, June 2014.
DANTEmag Feature - June 2014
Suddeutsche Zeitung Review - August 2014
Suddeutsche Zeitung Review - July 2014
Suddeutsche Zeitung Feature - November 2012

Short Films

Co-Existence Exhibition Opening Event Short Film
The Making of a Series Short Film
Animals and Landscapes Documentary about life, music & art of Manfred Zylla

Auctions

Bonhams Africa Now: Contemporary Art, October 2015, London, United Kingdom