Thursday evening saw the opening of Volume III at Whatiftheworld in Woodstock, presenting the new body of work by Avant Car Guard. The Avant Car Guard collective are three Joburg creatives - Zander Blom, Jan-Henri Booyens and Michael MacGarry - all established artists in their own right, who work as a single entity to produce artworks that satirise the local contemporary art world and the South African political milieu in a way that is wry, dry, and goddamn funny.

“A sincere act to invent something insincere” is Whatiftheworld’s description of the work of Avant Car Guard, and this accreditation is reaffirmed by the trio’s latest endeavour that evidences technical proficiency, but ironically so, as it reflexively pokes fun at the very establishment that it is rooted in – while clearly trying to keep a safely detached distance. Works like ‘Protected by Theory’ (below) and ‘AVANT CAR GUARD Infiltrate The House of Art’ (above) were my favourite examples of this self-referential effort to take the piss on the self-importance of the world of ‘high’ art and the (not indistinct) avant-garde.

On another not entirely different vein of funny were socio-political jabs like ‘AVANT CAR GUARD waiting for Mandela to die, and the nu rave party experience to hit Johannesburg’ (below).

Seemingly, working as a collective has allowed the three a freedom of expression that is practically not so viable working as individuals:

“We can say stuff with Avant Car Guard that we can’t and don’t necessarily want to say with our own stuff and because there are three of us the blame or the authorship is diluted. It’s also a bit lame to do that stuff by yourself,” says McGarry.

An example in Volume III that speaks to this is a painting captioned ‘B-Team’ – featuring a paint-by-number menagerie labelled with the names of local artists. Pretty cheeky, slightly plucky, and definitely easier when you can pass the buck on to your partners in crime.

(captions not included in the image above)

Avant Car Guard have exhibited at a national and international level over the past 18 months, including an extended exhibition at The Pure Project in New York City. Their current exhibition features large-scale paintings, editioned photographic works and prints, as well as a beautiful limited edition publication entitled Volume III that would make a fine addition to any self-respecting coffee table.

Here are some more of Avant Car Guard’s gems from Volume III below. To see more of the exhibition, check out Whatiftheworld’s website, or head on down to Whatiftheworld Gallery in Albert Road, Woodstock. Exhibition runs until 25 April 2009.