April 9, 2010

William Kentridge

William Kentridge, drawing for 'Stereoscope', 1998-99; charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper; 47 1/4 x 63 inches.

The most interesting exhibition that I saw while in NYC last week was "William Kentridge: Five Themes" at the Museum of Modern Art. The show was powerful, moving, thought-provoking, exhilarating, a very important overview of the work of a major contemporary artist. Kentridge's work does not show well in reproduction, so at first I wasn't going to write about it, but instead here is a short post urging those of you who are able to see the show not to miss it.

Kentridge is a South African artist who tackled the large themes around the morality and politics of apartheid in a series of animated films in the 1990s. To make the films, he took what were rather traditional charcoal drawings, and by erasing and redrawing and photographing them, created a new kind of narrative art. In his "Soho and Felix" series of works, he is the only contemporary artist I can compare to the Francisco Goya of "The Disasters of War" or "Los Caprichos".

The installation of all the animated works at MOMA is superb; the earlier films are projected on a large wall and the sound, important in all the work, is enveloping. Two of Kentridge's more recent pieces, "The Artist in the Studio" and "The Nose", based on a Gogol story, are multi-screen installations, visually and aurally exciting, and brilliantly inventive.

You can see snippets of the animated work at the "Five Themes" link above; just remember it's a poor substitute for being there.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a show of his at the Hirshhorn a number of years ago--drawings and animations. I still think about it. I agree, one of the best artists working today.