Monday, March 1, 2010

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - William Kentridge

Drawing from Stereoscope 1998-99
Charcoal, pastel and colored pencil on paper.
William Kentridge: Five Themes
The Museum of Modern Art
February 24-May 17, 2010

Contemporary Galleries, second floor

William Kentridge
was born in 1955 in South Africa, where he continues to live in Johannesburg with his wife, Dr. Anne Stanwix. Dr. Stanwix, a rheumatologist, is an Australian whose family moved to Johannesburg when she was 16. She and Kentridge have three children -- two daughters and a son.

Kentridge is an artist of many talents and he embraces many mediums, including animated films, drawings, prints, theater models, books, and opera. Most recently he has directed and designed a full-scale production of Dmitri Shostakovitch's The Nose, which will make its world premiere at The Metropolitan Opera on March 5th. Based on a short story by Gogol, it is a Kafka-like tale of a Russian bureaucrat who wakes up one morning to find his nose has vanished.

The MoMA exhibit is a comprehensive survey of the last three decades of the artist's career. This wide-ranging retrospective was originally organized by the independent curator Mark Rosenthal for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Art in Florida. The MoMA presentation, curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Judy Hecker, and Cara Starke, has been expanded to include 35 additional works. At its core is the magnificent installation designed by Jerry Neuman.

There is only one way to appreciate the talent of this versatile artist and that is to go and see this exhibition. The video installations can only be described as magical. One visit is not enough. I've been twice and, to use a metaphor often employed by the artist, I'm just getting my feet wet.
William Kentridge. Self portrait of the artist.
Moma's three curators who organized the Kentridge exhibition: Judy Hecker, Assistant Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books; Cara Starke, Assistant Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art; and Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA's Chief Curator-at-Large.
Entrance to Gallery: The artist's name is bisected by sliding door.
Wall text.
View of Installation.
`Kentridge is one of the great draftsmen of our times,'' says Mark Rosenthal (center), who organized this exhibition for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before it came to New York.
Ubu Drawing (Bicycle), 1997
Charcoal, gouache, pastel and dry pigment on paper
Ubu Drawing (Dancing Man) 1998
Gouache, charcoal, dry pigment, and pastel on paper
Ubu Drawing (Listening Man), 1998
Gouache, charcoal, dry pigment, and pastel on paper
Occasional And Residual Hope

" The figures in the procession and in Ubu Tells the Truth have a deliberate roughness (the result of tearing rather than cutting) .... You are aware you are looking at crude, torn shapes but you cannot help seeing into them — a particular limp, a load on a head rather than a random shape."

Shortly after South Africa's first democratic election, in 1994, the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission convened hearings between perpetrators and victims of apartheid. Kentridge created a body of work including etchings, large-scale drawings, an animated film, and a theatrical production that explores the process and impact of these testimonies. These works all feature Ubu, a character created by the French playwright Alfred Jarry in 1896. A corrupt and bombastic despot whom Jarry depicted with a pointy head and rotund spiral belly, Ubu is a symbol of the desire for power and those who abuse it.

The procession a stream of figures, often weighed down by possessions is a recurring motif in Kentridge's work, appearing in animated films, drawing, collages, prints and a book. Informed by the artist's creative process, this motif related to conditions in South Africa and evokes, more generally, the many states of migration and displacement around the world.
Ubu Tells the Truth 1996-97
Series of eight aquatint, etching and engravings
Publisher and printer: Caversham Press, Balgowan
South Africa
Edition: 50
The Museum of Modern Art, Acquired through the generosity of Agnes Gund, 1998

Kentridge's engagement with Ubu began with this set of etchings created on the centenary of Alfred Jarry's play Ubu Roi (1896), in which the character is introduced. Each print registers impressions from two metal plates: white, chalk-like outlines delineating Jarry's original character were printed from an engraved plate over a human figure printed from an etched plate. Kentridge based the latter figure on himself, using photographs he took in his studio. The act and scene numbers on the prints are arbitrary, though the series gives rise to Kentridge's theatrical production, Ubu and the Truth Commission (1997), which brought together actors, puppets, and the film animation, Ubu Tells the Truth (1997), which was projected as a backdrop.
Arc Procession (Smoke, Ashes, Fable) 1990
Charcoal and pastel on paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery
Traité d'Arithmétique 2007.

Lithograph with collage and watercolor additions.

Publisher: Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
Printer: The Artist's Press, White River,
South Africa.
Edition: 35.

Courtesy Marian Goodman gallery,
New York.
Shadow Procession 1999
35 mm animated film transferred to video, 7 min
Collection of the artist, courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
Ken Carbone, an artist who is also an art critic for Fast Carbone saw this show at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "This installation feels somewhat grander, especially the film segments which seem larger scale. I think Kentridge is the first super-star artist of the 21st Century." Mark Rosenthal, an independent curator and chief organizer of Kentridge's traveling exhibition, Cara Starke, Assistant Curator at New York's MoMA and one of the curators of this show, and Klaus Biesenbach.
Jerry Neuner, the designer of the exhibition. Mr. Neuner has been at MoMA for 30 years and he was recently profiled in the Arts section of The New York Times. He also designed MoMa's spectacular Bauhaus exhibit.
Drawing for the film Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old
1991 Charcoal and pastel on paper
Collection the artist. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Casspirs Full of Love
1989 (printed 2000)
Drypoint and engraving with roulette

Publisher: the artist, Johannesburg , in conjunction with David Krut Fine Art, London
Printer: 107 Workshop, Melksham, England
Edition 30 (17 printed 1989, 13 printed 2000)

Recalling scenes from his animated film-cycle 9 Drawings for Projection, this monumental drypoint refers, through its title, to a message sent from mother to son in a popular radio program for South Africa troops: "This message comes from your mother, with Casspirs full of love." Casspirs are armored personnel carriers; their name is an anagram of the abbreviations CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) and SAP (South African Police), the organizations that developed them. These vehicles, designed for international military operations, were deployed against South African civilians during apartheid.
Drawing for the film Stereoscope
Charcoal and pastel on paper
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Seated Couple (Back to Back)
Charcoal on pasted book pages
Untitled (Video Transfers) 2002
Charcoal, dry pigment, and gouache on nine pieces of paper.
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

This series of 9 drawings depicting Kentridge's wife Anne Stanwix, stepping into a bathtub is an example of what the artist called "cinema drawing — successive pictures strung together like the frames of a film. The series fits into the classic genre of bathing nudes, but, Kentridge has said, "the model becomes intimate rather than allegorical, objective or idealized.
William Kentridge with Marian Goodman, who started showing the artist's work in her gallery in 1997. "That's what he tells me," said Ms. Goodman.
Theater models for Mozart's The Magic Flute.
A dancing rhinoceros for The Magic Flute.
William Kentridge watches a video with Ronald Hallgren, one of the technicians who helped set up “The Black Box” within that gallery space. There were black panels set up at the entrance to each video area in order to contain the sound. They are standing in The Magic Flute Room and behind them is a drawing for the opera, The Magic Flute. Neal Benezra, Director of San Francisco MoMA. Mr. Benezra organized the first big American show of Kentridge's work at the Hirshhorn Museum.
Dana Tyler, WCBS reporter, interviews the artist. Dana Tyler strolls through the exhibition with
Mr. Kentridge.
Video series of Kentridge in his studio ...
MoMA Director Glenn Lowry and William Kentridge.
Glenn Lowry welcomes visitors to Press preview. "MoMA began collecting William Kentridge's work two decades ago with an aquisition of a portfolio of his drawings." In the foreground, William Kentridge takes a small bow while being introduced by Mr. Lowry. Behind him from left to right, Klaus Biesenbach, Cara Starke, and Judy Hecker, curators of
the show.
Klaus Biesenbach addresses the guests.
William Kentridge and MoMA's director, Glenn Lowry.
Jerry Neuner and Peter Galassi. Mr. Galassi has been with the museum since 1981 and in 1991 he was appointed Chief of Photography, succeeding John Szarkowski. His department will soon be overseeing a major retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson which opens on
April 11th.
Jody Hauptman, curator in Drawings Department, Lilian Tone, who works in the painting and sculpture department, and Jerry Neuner, who designed
the show.
Jason Kaufman, Chief New York Correspondent for The Art Newspaper, views Drawing for the film Sobriety, Obesity and Getting Old, 1991: "I am captivated by the blue chalk’s energy that courses through the sooty charcoal landscapes in his drawings and animations. Sometimes it’s liquid, sometimes electric, and always enigmatic, taking on political, sociological, emotional and cosmic meaning along the way."
Untitled 2001
Gouache, dry pigment, charcoal and pastel
Ubu Drawing (Sleeper) 1997
Charcoal, gouache, pastel and dry pigment on paper
Susan Morris, media producer. April Hunt, Press Officer of P.S.1, and Cara Starke, assistant curator at MoMA.
RoseLee Goldberg, like Kentridge, is from South Africa, where she spent her childhood. "This exhibition and Kentridge's work IS the sound track of my homeland," she said. Leaving the press preview, Barbara Pollack and Jason Kaufman. Ms. Pollack is a writer for Vanity Fair who covers contemporary art.
Catalogues for show on display in lobby of employee's entrance adjacent to the museum. The larger catalogue, William Kentridge 5 Themes, was produced in close collaboration with the artist and includes a DVD created by the artist especially for the publication. The DVD includes fragments from significant film projects as well as commentary that sheds further light on the artist's work. Edited by Mark Rosenthal. 240 pages; 297 ills. Price $50.

The other publication, Wiliiam Kentridge: Trace. Prints from the Museum of Modern Art is what is known as an artist's book. 112 pages. Price $29.95.
Opening Night: A private party at MoMA to honor William Kentridge.
Opening night: Anne and William Kentridge. Anne Kentridge is a practicing rheumatologist in Johannesburg. Patrick Young, the Kentridges' son-in-law. Mr. Young is a director of operas in London and Toronto.
Patrick Young, Nina Barnett, an artist from Johannesburg who works in this country, and Anne Kentridge. David Krut and Jim Kempner. Mr. Krut worked with William Kentridge on the the suite of 30 Nose prints. They collaborated in South Africa and the prints are on sale in a New York Gallery. Mr. Kempner owns a gallery in Chelsea.
Richard Oldenburg, former director of MoMA.
Thomas and Eleanore Kovachevich. The Kovachevichs will be in a party of 20 attending Kentridge's opening night of The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera on
March 5th.
Artist Alexis Rockman and Dorothy Spears with William Kentridge. Ms. Spears has just published a piece about Kentridge in the December issue of Art in America. Mr. Rockman's retrospective opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in November. I am a fan, among many, of his work.
David Hanks, Barbara Pine and Mark Rosenthal. Mr. Hanks is the Curator of the Stewart Foundation in Montreal. Ms. Pine is on the Drawings Committee at MoMA. Gideon Lester, assistant professor of Theater Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts, and Anna Devere Smith.
Security Guard Vane Layne with MoMA board member, Agnes Gund. Mr. Layne has worked at the museum for 23 years. "And I hope to be here many more. I also want to retire early enough so I have time to read the classics which keep us alive and a little in tune with society." Mr. Layne went on to say: "I like the company of Mrs. Gund." Agnes Gund, John Comfort, and Klaus Biesenbach. Mr. Comfort described himself as the last founding director of MoMA's P.S.1. "I met Aggie in the late 70's when we did the Denise Green show at P.S.1.'s The Clock Tower in downtown Manhattan.
William Kentridge talks with the artist Leslie Dill and Sue Gosin. Ms. Gosin is currently collaborating with Paul Wong on a William Kentridge book of watermarks. She and Mr. Wong are celebrating their 32nd year at Dieu Donné Paper Mill in New York City.
Clodagh and Daniel Aubrey with William Kentridge. The Aubreys are friends of Kentridge's father. Ms. Aubrey (wearing a Japanese fireman's jacket), described by her husband as "ethnically eclectic," is a designer. Mr. Aubrey is a photographer. Arm in arm, William Kentridge and his wife Anne enter the first gallery of the Exhibition.
Glenn Lowry and Anne Kentridge. Anne Kentridge brought along a small album of her daughter's wedding pictures. She is showing them to her good friend Susan Stewart, a poet who lives in Philadelphia and who is a Professor of English at Princeton University. Ms Stewart's latest collection of poems is Red Rover, published by The University of Chicago Press.
Anne Kentridge stands in front of her husband's charcoal drawings of her, a series of nine portraits showing his wife stepping into the bathtub.
Ann Temkin, MoMA's Chief Curator. Vivienne Koorland, an artist from South Africa, with the Kentridges.
Lies Marechal is 28 years old and from Belgium. She lives in New York City working as an assistant to the costume designer of The Metropolitan Opera's upcoming production of The Nose. Ms. Marechal has been working for a year and a half on these costumes and told me: "I went to Johannesburg and worked with William for a week in his studio." Charles Hecker, a consultant on investments in Russia, was at the opening to congratulate his sister, Judy Hecker, one of the prime curators of the show.
Also on hand, Judy's proud parents, Gloria and
Lewis Hecker.
Paul Jackson, press officer at MoMA, who is working on this exhibition. The museum is expecting 10,000 visitors a week, so Mr. Jackson's upcoming work will undoubtedly include "crowd control."
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.