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’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010), the Albertina Museum in Vienna (2010), Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010), and the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010), where he presented Carnets d’Egypte, a project conceived especially for the Egyptian Room. Kentridge’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was presented at Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Festival d’Aix, and in 2011 at La Scala in Milan, and his production of Shostakovich’s The Nose was seen at The New York Metropolitan Opera in 2010 and again in 2013, travelling to Festival d’Aix and to Lyon in 2011. The five-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany, in 2012; since then it has been seen at MAXXI in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and other cities including Boston, Perth, Kyoto, Helsinki and Wellington. A substantial survey exhibition of Kentridge’s work opened in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, going on in following years to Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Bogota, Medellin, and Mexico City. In the summer of 2014 Kentridge’s production of Schubert’s Winterreise opened at the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Aix, and Holland Festival. In the fall it opened at the Lincoln Center in New York. Paper Music, a concert of projections with live music by Philip Miller, opened in Florence in September 2014, and was presented at Carnegie Hall in New York in late October 2014. Both the installation The Refusal of Time and its companion performance piece Refuse the Hour were presented in Cape Town in February 2015. More recently, Kentridge’s production of the Alban Berg opera Wozzeck premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2017, and last year his acclaimed performance project The Head & The Load opened at Tate Modern in London, and travelled to Park Avenue Armory in December 2018. In June 2019, A Poem That I Used To Know opened at Kunstmuseum, Basel in Switzerland. This comprehensive survey show includes early drawings, major film installations, sculpture and two new pieces, an installation and a film, produced by Kentridge in response to works in the museum’s permanent collection.
In 2010, Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in recognition of his contributions in the field of arts and philosophy. In 2011, he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa from the University of London. In 2012, Kentridge presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University and was elected member of the American Philosophical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Also in that year, he was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University, and was named as Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. In 2013, William Kentridge was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Yale University and in 2014 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
Why Should I Hesitate, a major survey show, divided across the Norval Foundation and Zetiz MOCAA, opened in late August 2019 and will run until July 2020. In addition, Kentridge’s new opera project, Waiting for the Sibyl, premiered at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in September 2019. Waiting for the Sibyl was created in response to Alexander Calder’s Work in Progress. Most recently, Kentridge’s production of Alban Berg opera Wozzeck ran at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.