“Trash Mask” Portraits Highlight the Mineral-Garbage Exploitation Cycle of the DR Congolese People
The Joshua Tree Gallery of Contemporary Art’s (JT-GOCA) new exhibition, Through Their Eyes, is a solo exhibition featuring the extraordinary photographic art of Stephan Gladieu—and it’s literally helping to support a collective of about thirty Congolese artists whose goal includes bringing awareness to the global exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Gladieu’s vibrant portrait series, Homo Detritus (trash human) captures the members of the art collective, “Ndaku, ya la vie est belles” as they don intricate costume masks created from the western-world garbage polluting the streets of their capitol city, Kinshasa, Gladieu photographed the artists in their costumes in symbolic areas throughout the streets of Kinshasa to create this vivid series.
Harnessing the direct and unadulterated essence of photographic art, Through Their Eyes acutely elevates awareness of the ongoing exploitation of the DRC and its native people. Laboring in abysmal conditions and for some of the lowest wages in the world, primarily courtesy of large multi-national corporations, residents of Kinshasa mine the rare minerals necessary for much of Asia’s and western countries’ consumer production. The result is a despoiling of the country’s wealth—both human labor and natural resources. Intensifying this exploitation, ironically, is the in vogue focus on climate change, as dominant corporations and wealthy countries rush to acquire the rare and valuable natural resources necessary to build the electric vehicles so prominent in many national environmental discussions. The exploitation continues full cycle as consumer waste resulting from the resultant consumer products returns to Kinshasa on barges of garbage that dump millions of tons of waste back into the DRC, furthering the environmental and human disaster. The exhibition curates the artwork to indelibly highlight this human and eco crisis so that the artwork creates a public awareness and opens a significant solution-minded discussion.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Stephan Gladieu is represented by Olivier Castaing, owner of the SCHOOL GALLERY, in Paris and ARTCO GALLERY in Germany, Cape Town and Joshua Tree.
Stephan Gladieu’s career began in 1989 covering war & social issues, traveling across Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan) and Asia (India, Nepal, Vietnam, China, etc.).
His work began as travel features, but he became increasingly interested in using portraiture to illustrate the human condition around the world. His portraiture has included covering the Saudi Princes, Princesses in Nepal, actors & directors behind the scenes at Cannes Film Festival, politicians, intellectuals, but also everyday people the world over.
Stephan still realizes international features and portraits series for international magazines, but he is mainly focused on his personal work: the human story through colorful portrait collection.
On the side of his journalist activity, Stephan is working with private companies (LVMH, Danone, TOTAL…) and international intitutions (World Bank, UNICEF) to work on their visual identity.
Stephan Gladieu’s work is published in leading publications in France and internationally.