William Kentridge, Learning the Flute, Letterpress on encyclopedia pages mounted on 110 sheets of paper, overall: 9’ 2-13/16” x 11’ 8-3/8", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Patricia P. Irgens Larsen Foundation Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Seated Couple (Back to Back). 1998, Charcoal on pasted book pages on paper, 42 x 75 1/4", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Friends of Contemporary Drawing, © 2010 William Kentridge.

Exploring the Range of Themes and Practices in William Kentridge's Work

William Kentridge, Still from Commissariat for Enlightenment from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine. 2008, Eight-channel video projection, DVCAM and HDV transferred to video, 6:01 min, Collection of the artist, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Still from His Majesty, the Nose from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine. 2008, Eight-channel video projection, DVCAM and HDV transferred to video, 6:01 min, Collection of the artist, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Still from Invisible Mending from 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès. 2003, 35mm and 16mm animated film transferred to video, 1:20 min, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, and David Rockefeller in honor of Peter Haas, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Still from Invisible Mending from 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès. 2003, 35mm and 16mm animated film transferred to video, 1:20 min, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, and David Rockefeller in honor of Peter Haas, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Still from A Lifetime of Enthusiasm from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine. 2008, Eight-channel video projection, DVCAM and HDV transferred to video, 6:01 min., Collection of the artist, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Drawing for the film Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old [Soho and Mrs. Eckstein in Pool]. 1991, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 47-1/4 x 59”, Collection of the artist, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Drawing for the film WEIGHING . . . and WANTING [Soho with Head on Rock]. 1997, Charcoal, pastel, and gouache on paper, 48-1/2 x 63”, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: courtesy the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

William Kentridge, Untitled (Man with Megaphone). 1998, Etching, aquatint, drypoint, and engraving with roulette and crayon additions, plate: 9-13/16 x 14-15/16", 13 11/16 x 19 9/16", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mary Ellen Meehan Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Act III, Scene 9 from Ubu Tells the Truth. 1996-97, One from a series of eight aquatint, etching, and engravings, plate (each): 9-13/16 x 11-13/16" sheet (each): 14 x 19-1/2", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Agnes Gund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Anti-Waste from Little Morals. 1991, One from a portfolio of eight aquatint, drypoint, engraving, and etchings, plate: 9-1/8 x 12-5/8" sheet: 12 11/16 x 17 5/16", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jacqueline Brody Fund and the Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Drawing from Preparing the Flute (Backdrop), Charcoal, colored pencil, and pastel on paper, 47-1/4 x 63", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fractional and promised gift of Agnes Gund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Drawing from Stereoscope. 1998-99, Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 47-1/4 x 63”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, with special contributions from Anonymous, Scott J. Lorinsky, Yasufumi Nakamura, and The Wider Foundation, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Nose 7 from Nose. 2008, One etching, aquatint, and engraving from a series of thirty prints, plate: 5-13/16 x 7-13/16", sheet: 13-3/4 x 15-3/4", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Patricia P. Irgens Larsen Foundation Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
212-708-9400
New York
Contemporary Galleries,
second floor
William Kentridge: Five Themes
February 24-May 17, 2010

William Kentridge: Five Themes traces the evolution of Kentridge’s subject matter, from the apartheid in South Africa to more universal stories and a range of human conditions. In recent years Kentridge’s thematic concerns have expanded to include his own studio practice, the Enlightenment and colonialism, and the cultural history of post-revolutionary Russia. This newer work is based on an intensive exploration of themes connected to Kentridge’s own life experience, as well as the social issues that most concern him. Compared to his earlier work, the new projects are dramatically larger in scope, such as The Nose — a full-scale opera directed and designed by Kentridge, which makes its world premiere at Metropolitan Opera, March 2010.

The Museum of Modern Art presents William Kentridge: Five Themes, a comprehensive survey of the artist’s career, featuring more than 100 works in a range of mediums — animated films, drawings, prints, theater models, and books. Kentridge (South African, b. 1955) has earned international acclaim for his interdisciplinary practice, which mingles the fields of visual art, film, and theater. Known for engaging with the social and political landscape of his homeland, South Africa, he has produced a body of work that explores colonial oppression and social conflict, loss and reconciliation, and the ephemeral nature of both personal and cultural memory. The exhibition underscores the inter-relatedness of his mediums and disciplines through the presentation of five primary themes that cut across Kentridge’s artistic output. William Kentridge: Five Themes, following a chronological progression, comprising works created over the last 30 years and featuring new developments, revealing as never before the full arc of his distinguished career.

William Kentridge: Five Themes was organized by independent curator Mark Rosenthal, in collaboration with the artist, for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Norton Museum of Art in Florida, two venues that presented the exhibition in 2009. It travels to museums in Paris, Vienna, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, and Vancouver. At MoMA, the exhibition has been expanded, with about half of the New York presentation drawn from MoMA’s collection of Kentridge’s installations, films, drawings, and prints, several of which were included in the travelling exhibition. An additional 30 prints from the Museum’s collection have been included in MoMA’s presentation. The exhibition is organized at MoMA by Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA’s Chief Curator-at-Large, and Director of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; Judith B. Hecker, Assistant Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books; and Cara Starke, Assistant Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art.

In conjunction with MoMA’s exhibition, the Museum is publishing William Kentridge: Trace. Prints from The Museum of Modern Art, which includes an original essay on the artist’s printmaking by Ms. Hecker, as well as 40 pages of new artwork by Kentridge specifically designed for the publication. This publication is in addition to the existing exhibition catalogue, William Kentridge: Five Themes, edited by Mark Rosenthal and produced in close collaboration with the artist.

Among the different creative processes represented in the exhibition are Kentridge’s hand-drawn film animations, which he calls “drawings for projection.” A distinctive technique he began using in the 1990s, the animations comprise charcoal drawings and collages that Kentridge painstakingly creates, reworks, and moves, filming each step along the way, ultimately projecting them as moving images. Movement is generated within the image, by the artist’s hand, with the camera serving merely to record its progression. As such, the animations reveal a tension between material object and time-based performance, uniquely capturing the artist’s process while telling poignant stories.

In his newer films, Kentridge has emphasized elements of live-action performance as well as archival film footage to create works broader in scope. Instead of being projected individually, like his earlier animations, these films are grouped together in installations that fill entire rooms with moving images. The exhibition at MoMA presents all phases of Kentridge’s involvement with film within large galleries, allowing for long, dynamic views of his moving images as well as complete environmental immersion.

MoMA’s exhibition is organized chronologically, focusing on five themes of Kentridge’s career.

Ubu and the Procession In 1975 Kentridge acted in Ubu Rex (an adaptation of Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry’s 1896 satire about a corrupt and cowardly despot), and subsequently devoted a large body of work to the subject. He began the project with a series of eight etchings, entitled Ubu Tells the Truth (1996), and in 1997 made an animated film of the same name, as well as a number of related drawings. That project culminated in aa live theater performance. Together, these works deal with the South African experience, specifically addressing hearings set up by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995 to bring together victims and perpetrators of apartheid. Other highlights in this section include the film Shadow Procession (1999), in which Kentridge first uses techniques of shadow theater and jointed-paper figures; the multi-panel accordion-folded book Portage (2000); and a large charcoal-and-pastel-on-paper work entitled Arc Procession (Smoke, Ashes, Fable) (1990).

MoMA’s installation includes the addition of the nine etchings that comprise Kentridge’s series Zeno at 4 A.M. (2001), which focus attention on the details of figures from a processional march, as well as two monumental linoleum cuts, Walking Man and Telephone Lady (2000), which isolate the actions of marching figures on a grand scale.

Soho and Felix The second section of the exhibition is dedicated to Kentridge’s best-known fictional characters, Soho Eckstein, an industrialist and real estate developer whose troubled conscience reflects certain miens of contemporary South Africa, and his sensitive alter ego, Felix Teitlebaum, who pines for Soho’s wife and often functions as a surrogate for Kentridge himself. The centerpiece of this section, a seminal series entitled 9 Drawings for Projection, comprises nine short animated films: Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris (1989), Monument (1990), Mine (1991), Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (1991), Felix in Exile (1994), History of the Main Complaint (1996), WEIGHING … and WANTING (1998), Stereoscope (1999), and Tide Table (2003). At MoMA, these projections are shown in large format among three distinct galleries. These films, along with a key selection of the drawings from which they are made, follow the lives of Soho and Felix as they struggle to navigate life in Johannesburg during the final decade of apartheid. According to Kentridge, the Soho and Felix films were made without a script or storyboards and are largely about his own process of discovery.

MoMA’s installation is supplemented with materials from MoMA’s collection: the complete portfolio of prints Little Morals (1991) and two large-scale prints, Casspirs Full of Love (1989) and Battle Between Yes and No (1989), which amplify moments from the films.

Artist in the Studio This section of the exhibition presents a turning point in Kentridge’s work, one in which his own artistic practice became a subject. According to the artist, many of these projects are meant to reflect the “invisible work that must be done” before beginning a drawing, film, or sculpture. This theme is epitomized by the large-scale multi-screen projection 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès (2003), an homage to the early French film director, who, like Kentridge, often combined performance with special effects. The suite of seven films — each depicting Kentridge at work in his studio or interacting with his creations — is accompanied by Journey to the Moon (2003) and Day for Night (2003). A group of drawings on the subject of the artist and model in the studio, and a riveting self-portrait, form an intimate portrayal of the artist’s working process.

The Magic Flute The fourth section comprises Kentridge’s model theaters, a film projection, and a selection of drawings and prints inspired by his 2005 production of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute for La Monnaie, the leading opera house in Belgium. The artist’s film projection on a blackboard structure, Learning the Flute (2003), which started the Flute project, shifts between images of black charcoal drawings on white paper and white chalk drawings projected onto a blackboard, forming a meditation on darkness and light that relates to the opera’s main theme of the Enlightenment. Similarly, the grand print — presented exclusively at MoMA and also entitled Learning the Flute (2003) — explores concepts from the opera within a composition that mimics the space of a theater. The model theater Preparing the Flute (2005) was created as a large-scale maquette for testing the projections central to the final set design of the opera. A second model theater, Black Box/Chambre Noire (2006), addresses the opera’s theme of Enlightenment and the dangers of achieving rationalism, as embodied by colonialism in Africa. Each of the three projections is shown sequentially in the gallery space, with the overhead lights dimming during each performance. Once the full cycle concludes, the gallery lights return for a period of time, allowing visitors to view the related drawings installed on the surrounding walls.

The Nose The final section features a series of projected films and prints made in preparation for Kentridge’s staging and production of The Nose, which makes its debut at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City on March 5, 2010. The Nose— a 1930 Dmitri Shostakovich opera based on Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story of 1836 — concerns a Russian official whose nose disappears from his face, only to turn up, in uniform, as a higher-ranking official moving in more respected circles. Kentridge’s room-size installation of projected films, I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008), uses Gogol’s story as the basis for examining the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s and 1930s, and its tragic suppression. This section also presents prints from the MoMA collection — on view for the first time — that relate to Kentridge’s development of The Nose.

William Kentridge, Self-Portrait (Testing the Library). 1998, Charcoal on paper, 26 x 20”, Collection of Brenda Potter and Michael Sandler, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

William Kentridge, Drawing for II Sole 24 Ore (World Walking). 2007, Charcoal, gouache, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 84 x 59”, Collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

William Kentridge, Black Box/Chambre Noire. 2006, Model theater with drawings (charcoal, pastel, collage, and colored pencil on paper), mechanical puppets, and 35mm animated film transferred to video, 22 min. 141-3/4 x 78-3/4 x 55”, Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Walking Man. 2000, Linoleum cut, composition: 7’ 11-½” x 38-½”, sheet: 8’ 2 ½” x 38 1/2", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jacqueline Brody Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Still from Ubu Tells the Truth. 1997, 35mm animated film with documentary photographs and 16mm archival film transferred to video, 8 min., Collection of the artist, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, © 2010 William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the artist.

William Kentridge, Nose 13 from Nose. 2008, One aquatint, drypoint, and engraving from a series of thirty prints, plate: 5-13/16 x 7-13/16", sheet: 13-3/4 x 15-3/4", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Patricia P. Irgens Larsen Foundation Fund, © 2010 William Kentridge.

William Kentridge, Act III, Scene 9, from the portfolio Ubu Tells the Truth, 1996; Hardground, softground, aquatint, drypoint, and engraving; 10 x 12 in. (25 x 30.5 cm); Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio; Printed by Caversham Press, Natal, South Africa

Surveying the Acclaimed Interdisciplinary Oeuvre of William Kentridge

William Kentridge, A Lifetime of Enthusiasm (still), from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine, 2008; Eight-channel video projection, 6 min.; Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, Commissariat for Enlightenment (still), from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine, 2008; Eight-channel video projection, 6 min.; Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, His Majesty, the Nose (still), from the installation I am not me, the horse is not mine, 2008; Eight-channel video projection, 6 min.; Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, Bridge, 2001; Bronze and books, 32 5/8 x 36 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (60 x 93.2 x 19 cm); Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, History of the Main Complaint (still), 1996; 35mm animated film transferred to video, 5:50 min.; Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, Drawing for the film Stereoscope, 1998–99; Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper; 47 1/4 x 63 in. (120 x 160 cm); The Museum of Modern Art, New York; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: courtesy the William Kentridge Studio and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

William Kentridge, Drawing for II Sole 24 Ore (World Walking), 2007; Charcoal, gouache, pastel, and colored pencil on paper; 84 x 59 in. (213.5 x 150 cm); Collection of Doris and Donald Fisher; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

William Kentridge, Black Box/Chambre Noire, 2006; Model theater with charcoal on paper, mechanical puppets, and 35mm animated film transferred to video, 22 min.; 141 3/4 x 78 3/4 x 55 in. (360 x 200 x 139.7 cm); Collection Deutsche Guggenheim, commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
(between Mission
and Howard Streets)
415-357-4000
San Francisco

William Kentridge: Five Themes
March 14-May 31, 2009

Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, where he continues to live and work, Kentridge has earned international acclaim for his interdisciplinary practice, often fusing drawing, film, and theater. Known for engaging with the social landscape and political background of his native South Africa, he has produced a searing body of work exploring oppression and social conflict, loss and reconciliation, and the ephemeral nature of personal and cultural memory.

William Kentridge: Five Themes, a survey of the contemporary South African artist's work, features more than 75 works in a range of media — including animated films, drawings, prints, theater models, sculptures, and books — the exhibition is co-organized by SFMOMA and Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Curated by Mark Rosenthal, adjunct curator of contemporary art at the Norton Museum of Art, in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition explores five primary themes that have engaged Kentridge over the past three decades. Although the exhibition highlights projects completed since 2000 (many of which have not been seen in the United States), it will also present, for the first time, Kentridge's most recent work alongside his earlier projects from the 1980s and 1990s—revealing as never before the full arc of his distinguished career.

Following its debut at SFMOMA, the survey will travel to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Norton Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Plans for the European tour — which tentatively include Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem — are being finalized. Accompanying the exhibition is a richly illustrated catalogue, complete with a DVD produced by the artist for this special occasion. The San Francisco presentation of William Kentridge: Five Themes is made possible by the generous support of the Koret Foundation and Doris and Donald Fisher.

Kentridge first gained recognition in 1997, when his work was included in Documenta X in Kassel, Germany, and in the Johannesburg and Havana Biennials, which were followed by prominent solo exhibitions internationally. His art was widely introduced to American audiences in 2001 through a traveling retrospective — cocurated by Neal Benezra when he served as deputy director of the Art Institute of Chicago — which primarily included works made before 2000. William Kentridge: Five Themes brings viewers up to date on the artist's work over the past decade, exploring how his subject matter has evolved from the specific context of South Africa to more universal stories. In recent years, Kentridge has dramatically expanded both the scope of his projects (such as recent full-scale opera productions) and their thematic concerns, which now include his own studio practice, colonialism in Namibia and Ethiopia, and the cultural history of postrevolutionary Russia. His newer work is based on an intensive exploration of themes connected to his own life experience, as well as the political and social issues that most concern him.

Although his hand-drawn animations are often described as films, Kentridge himself prefers to call them "drawings for projection." He makes them using a distinctive technique in which he painstakingly creates, erases, and reworks charcoal drawings that are photographed and projected as moving image. Movement is generated within the image, by the artist's hand; the camera serves merely to record its progression. As such, the animations explore a tension between material object and time-based performance, uniquely capturing the artist's working process while telling poignant and politically urgent stories. 

Concerning the artist's innovative film installations of the past ten years, Rudolf Frieling adds: "Kentridge has been considered primarily as an artist who draws for projections. Yet his recent installation-based films explore an expanded cinema space and question the very foundation of what it means to produce and perceive a moving image."

In light of SFMOMA's history with Kentridge — in 2004 the museum acquired the artist's landmark film Tide Table (2003) and a set of related drawings — and the rich holdings of his work in private Bay Area collections, the occasion to present the first major exhibition of his work in San Francisco has particular resonance and reflects the museum's ongoing commitment to his art. In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMAwill bring the artist's multimedia opera The Return of Ulysses to San Francisco for performances at Project Artaud Theater from March 25 through 29, 2009. Kentridge will also present his lecture-format solo performance •I am not me, the horse is not mine• at SFMOMA on March 14, 2009.

Five Themes
Parcours d'Atelier:
Artist in the Studio

The first section of the exhibition examines a crucial turning point in Kentridge's work, one in which his own art practice became a subject. According to the artist, many of these projects are meant to reflect the "invisible work that must be done" before beginning a drawing, film, or sculpture. This theme is epitomized by the large-scale multiscreen projection 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès (2003), an homage to the early French film director, who, like Kentridge, often combined performance with drawing. The suite of seven films — each depicting Kentridge at work in his studio or interacting with his creations — has only been shown once before in the United States and will be accompanied by a rarely seen group of related drawings, forming an intimate portrayal of the artist's process.

Thick Time: Soho and Felix
A second section of the exhibition is dedicated to Kentridge's best-known fictional characters, Soho Eckstein, a domineering industrialist and real estate developer whose troubled conscience reflects certain miens of contemporary South Africa, and his sensitive alter ego, Felix Teitlebaum, who pines for Soho's wife and often functions as a surrogate for the artist himself. The centerpiece of this section, an ongoing work entitled 9 Drawings for Projection, comprises nine short animated films: Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris (1989), Monument (1990), Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (1991), Mine (1991), Felix in Exile (1994), History of the Main Complaint (1996), WEIGHING … and WANTING (1998),Stereoscope (1999), and Tide Table (2003). These projections, along with a key selection of related drawings, follow the lives of Soho and Felix as they struggle to navigate the political and social climate of Johannesburg during the final decade of apartheid. According to Kentridge, the Soho and Felix films were made without a script or storyboards and are largely about his own process of discovery.

Occasional and Residual Hope:
Ubu and the Procession

In 1975 Kentridge acted in Ubu Rex (an adaptation of Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry's satire about a corrupt and cowardly despot), and he subsequently devoted a large body of work to the play. He began with a series of eight etchings, collectively entitled Ubu Tells the Truth (1996), and in 1997 made an animated film of the same name, as well as a number of related drawings. These works also deal with the South African experience, specifically addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings set up by the nation's government in 1995 to investigate human rights abuses during apartheid. Other highlights in this grouping include the film Shadow Procession (1999), in which Kentridge first utilizes techniques of shadow theater and jointed-paper figures; the multipanel collage Portage (2000); a large charcoal-and-pastel-on-paper work entitled Arc Procession (Smoke, Ashes, Fable) (1990); and some of the artist's rough-hewn bronze sculptures.

Sarastro and the Master's Voice:
The Magic Flute

A selection of Kentridge's drawings, films, and theater models inspired by his 2005 production of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute for La Monnaie, the leading opera house in Belgium, will be a highlight of the exhibition. The artist's video projection Learning the Flute (2003), which started the Flute project, shifts between images of black charcoal drawings on white paper and white chalk drawings projected onto a blackboard, forming a meditation on darkness and light. Preparing the Flute (2005) was created as a large-scale maquette within which to test projections central to the production of the opera. Another theater model, Black Box / Chambre Noire (2006), which has never been seen in the United States, addresses the opera's themes, specifically through an examination of the colonial war of 1904 in German South-West Africa, and of the genocide of the Herero people. What Will Come (has already come) (2007), a consideration of colonialism in Ethiopia, presents an anamorphic film installation in which intentionally distorted images projected onto a tabletop right themselves only when reflected in a cylindrical mirror. This work was recently acquired, under the guidance of Rosenthal, by the Norton Museum of Art.

Learning from the Absurd:
The Nose

The fifth section comprises a multichannel projection made in preparation for Kentridge's forthcoming staging of The Nose, a Metropolitan Opera production that will premiere in New York in March 2010. The Nose — a 1930 Dmitri Shostakovich opera based on Nikolai Gogol's absurdist short story of 1836 — concerns a Russian official whose nose disappears from his face, only to turn up, in uniform, as a higher-ranking official moving in more respected circles. Kentridge's related work, I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008), on view in the United States for the first time, is a room-size installation of projected films that use Gogol's story as the basis for examining Russian modernism and the suppression of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s and 1930s.

Acknowledging the profound importance of theatrical work in Kentridge's oeuvre, SFMOMA will bring the artist's multimedia opera The Return of Ulysses to San Francisco in conjunction with the exhibition. First performed in Brussels in 1998, Kentridge's acclaimed reinterpretation of Claudio Monteverdi's 1640 opera (based on Homer's epic poem) is transposed to a mid-20th-century Johannesburg setting. This limited-engagement performance features live actors and musicians, as well as 13 life-size, artisan-crafted wooden puppets and projections of Kentridge's animated charcoal drawings. The Return of Ulysses runs at Project Artaud Theater from Wednesday, March 25, through Sunday, March 29, and is a production of Pacific Operaworks, in Seattle, incorporating puppeteers from Kentridge's longtime collaborator, the Handspring Puppet Company of Cape Town, in South Africa.

In a special opening-night event, Kentridge presents a lecture-format solo performance of I am not me, the horse is not mine, which premiered at the 16th Biennale of Sydney in June 2008 (and shares the same title of the related multichannel projection making its U.S. debut with this presentation). This live performance focuses on the development process of Kentridge's upcoming opera production, The Nose, and takes place in SFMOMA's Phyllis Wattis Theater on March 14, 2009.

William Kentridge, Ubu Tells the Truth (still), 1997; 35mm animated film with documentary photographs and 16mm archival film transferred to video, 8 min.; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio.

William Kentridge, Drawing for the film Monument [Harry – Close-Up of Head and Load], 1990; Charcoal on paper; 59 x 47 1/4 in. (150 x 120 cm); Collection of the artist; © 2008 William Kentridge; photo: John Hodgkiss, courtesy the William Kentridge Studio

William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955), Learning the Flute, 2004, Letterpress on spreads from Chamber’s Encyclopaedia (1950) on white Arches Johannot 240 gsm paper, Complete print 111 x 139.6", assembled from 110 parts, Courtesy of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

William Kentridge: At the Nexus of Printmaking and Filmmaking

William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955), Telephone Lady, 2000, Linocut on Japanese Kozo 38 gsm paper, Tableau rice paper and canvas, 85 x 47" (image and paper), Courtesy of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

 

Williams College Museum of Art
15 Lawrence Hall Drive
413-597-2429
Williamstown
William Kentridge Prints
February 9-April 27, 2008 and
June 21-August 24, 2008
History of the Main Complaint, 1996
February 2-April 27, 2008

William Kentridge Prints is the first of a two-part exhibition featuring 120 works by this pioneering South-African artist. WCMA is also be showing Kentridge's film History of the Main Complaint, 1996, in the museum's media field gallery.

William Kentridge Prints represents over a third of the output in the medium of printmaking for Kentridge, who works in the tradition of socially and politically engaged artists such as William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honore Daumier, and Kathe Kollwitz. Kentridge's work reflects on the human condition, specifically the history of apartheid in his own country and the ways in which our personal and collective histories are intertwined.

The work in this exhibition ranges from 1976 to 2004 and includes aquatint, drypoint, engraving, etching, monoprint, linocut, lithograph, and silkscreen techniques, often in combinations. Kentridge's prints are rich in layering and restricted to black and white, with color accents added to selected images. The results are works that are powerful in the stark contrast of image to background in woodcuts and lithographs and subtle in linear and atmosphere with etching or monotypes.

History of the Main Complaint, 1996, a key animated film in Kentridge's oeuvre, will also be on view at WCMA this spring. He composes his animated films from charcoal and pastel drawings, vigorously reworking them, leaving traces of erasure and redrawing.

Each stage is filmed, then animated. Traces of erasures still visible to the viewer lend the unfoldng films a sense of fading memory or the passing of time. Through this process, Kentridge constructs moral allegories that explore themes of love and betrayal, oppression and violence, death and regeneration.

William Kentridge Prints was organized by Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1955, Kentridge received a degree in Politics and African Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and a diploma in Fine Arts from the Johannesburg Art Foundation. Between 1975 and 1991 he was acting and directing in Johannesburg’s Junction Avenue Theatre Company. In the 1980s he worked on television films and series as an art director. He founded a theater company, studied mime and theater in Paris and, from 1982 to 1984, was art director for television series and feature films. In 1989, Kentridge began making short animated films by photographing his charcoal drawings with a video camera and altering them in minute ways to animate them. The political content and the unique techniques of Kentridges' work have propelled him into being one of South Africa’s most significant artists.

William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955), Drawing from Felix in Exile, 1994, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 80 x 120 cm, Courtesy of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.