The exhibition consists of approximately 45 landscape drawings, mainly made from mining landscapes around Johannesburg.
The drawings are made on the pages of an old cash book from East Rand Proprietary Mines from 1906 (with a few from other mine ledgers), in which the text under the drawings, either covered or glimpsed, is an important part of the history of the drawing. What is hidden by the landscape? What traces are left in the landscape by the actions upon it? In what way does nature reclaim this damaged ground and erase its history?
The drawings were done over a three year period, and range from the East Rand to the platinum belt. Accompanying the exhibition is a launch of a book which reproduces the drawings and includes a text by Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Part detective story, part archival history, part anthropological reverie, Morris’s text reads between the lines to find evidence of the vast webs that linked South Africa to other parts of Africa, China, the United States, and Australia in an early moment of the globalizing economy.
William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1955. Kentridge’s artistic practice, expressionist in nature, is entirely underpinned by drawing. He is perhaps best known for his series of eleven animated films, Drawings for Projection, the earliest of which was completed in 1989 and the most recent of which will premiere in 2020. These hand-drawn films follow the narrative of fictional mining magnate, Soho Eckstein, his wife and her lover, Felix Teitlebaum. This saga is permeated with anecdotal elements from Kentridge’s own life and the political events, which unfolded in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.
In addition to being an accomplished printmaker in his own right, Kentridge’s openness to collaboration has allowed him to produce rich and extensive series of kinetic sculptures, bronzes and hand-woven tapestries. His passion for the theatre has brought him to work, as creative director, on several acclaimed opera productions ranging from Mozart’s Magic Flute , to The Nose by Shostakovich (2010) and most recently two operas by Alban Berg, Lulu (2015) and Wozzeck (2017). Kentridge has also created a number of original performance pieces including Refuse the Hour (2012); Triumphs & Laments (2017) on the Tiber river in Rome; The Head & the Load (2018) and most recently, the chamber opera, Sibyl (2019).
Kentridge’s career has spanned five decades and his work has been shown in major museums and biennales, around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2012), Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010), FORTUNA in Brazil (2013), Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in China (2015), Whitechapel Gallery in London (2016), Louisiana Museum in Denmark (2017), Reina Sofia Museum in Spain (2017), Liebieghaus Museum in Germany (2018), Kunstmuseum Basel (2019), Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town (2019), and most recently MUDAM in Luxembourg (2021).
Kentridge is the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities including Yale and the University of London. In 2012 he presented the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University. In 2013 he served as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art at Oxford University, and Distinguished Visiting Humanist at the University of Rochester, New York, and in 2015 he was appointed an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy in London. In 2017 he received the Princesa de Asturias Award for the Arts, Spain, and in 2018, the Antonio Feltrinelli International Prize, Italy. Previous awards include the Kyoto Prize, Japan (2010), the Oskar Kokoschka Award, Vienna (2008), the Kaiserring Prize (2003), and the Sharjah Biennial 6 Prize (2003), among many others.
Kentridge is currently working towards major survey exhibitions at The Royal Academy in London for 2022, and The Broad Museum in Los Angeles.