Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
1 October – 12 November
The making of each film was the discovery of what each film was. A first image, phrase, or idea would justify itself in the unfolding of images, phrases, and ideas spawned by the work as it progressed. The imperfect erasures of the successive stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea and a record of the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken time in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film – a record of thinking in slow motion.
- William Kentridge
City Deep is the anticipated 11th film in Kentridge’s Drawings for Projection series, a collection of animated films drawn over 30 years,featuring the protagonist Soho Eckstein. South Africa’s political transition from the violent years of apartheid to democracy sets the scene for a saga of loss, love, anger, compassion, guilt and forgiveness. The films revolve around the power-hungry mining magnate Soho Eckstein, his wife Mrs. Eckstein and her lover, the solitary artist Felix Teitlebaum. As the story unfolds, Soho’s empire crumbles as he comes to terms with his own frailties and the first signs of mortality.
Like previous films in the series, City Deep is grounded within Kentridge’s home city of Johannesburg and can be viewed as a counterpoint to the 1990 film, Mine, which depicts images of the deep level mining industry. City Deep extends this depiction to the informal, surface-level “zama zama” miners of current day Johannesburg. Translated from Zulu as ‘try your luck’ or ‘take a chance’, “zama zama” is the name given to the miners who illegally work decommissioned mines on the edges of the formal mining economy. Manual labour replaces large machines, creating open scars in the Highveld landscape.
In City Deep, the “zama zama” miners and the landscape merge into artworks hanging in the Johannesburg Art Gallery, itself built during the heyday of gold mining in Johannesburg. Wandering the exhibition spaces is a deeply contemplative Soho gazing at the artworks and into vitrines. Towards the end of the film the gallery collapses in on itself, an imagined demise of an institution in a state of increasing dereliction.
The exhibition will also include drawings from Kentridge’s new publication, Waiting for the Sibyl, as well as the third in a series of bronze sculptures, which take the form of a visual lexicon, aptly titled Cursive. The drawings for Waiting for the Sibyl were produced in preparation for the opera of the same name, which premiered at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in September 2019.
Cursive brings together an accumulation of elemental symbols or ‘glyphs’ within Kentridge’s broader practice. Functioning as a form of a visual dictionary, the glyphs can be arranged in order to construct sculptural sentences, and re-arranged to deny meaning. As Kentridge says, they are a way of weighing one’s words.
William Kentridge (b. Johannesburg, South Africa, 1955) is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions. While his practice, expressionist in nature, is entirely underpinned by drawing, his method combines studio-based and collaborative practices to create works of art that are grounded in politics, science, literature and history, and maintain a space for contradiction and uncertainty.
Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Musée du Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Zeitz MOCAA, the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, MUDAM in Luxembourg and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He has also participated in a number of Biennale’s including Documenta in Kassel (2012, 2002,1997) and the Venice Biennale (2015, 2013, 2005, 1999, 1993).
Opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s operas Lulu and Wozzeck, and have been seen at opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan, English National Opera in London, Opera de Lyon, Amsterdam opera, the Sydney Opera House and the Salzburg Festival.
Kentridge’s theatrical productions, performed in theatres and at festivals across the globe include Refuse the Hour, Winterreise, Paper Music, The Head & the Load, Ursonate and Waiting for the Sibyl and in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, Ubu & the Truth Commission, Faustus in Africa!, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse, and Woyzeck on the Highveld.
In 2016 Kentridge founded the Centre for Less Good Idea in Johannesburg: a space for responsive thinking and making through experimental, collaborative and cross-disciplinary arts practices. The centre hosts an ongoing programme of workshops, public performances, and mentorship activities.
Kentridge’s work can be found in the collections of Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth), Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art (New York), San Diego Museum of Art, Fondation Cartier (Paris), Zetiz MoCAA (Cape Town), Norval Foundation (Cape Town), LACMA (Los Angeles), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Sharjah Art Foundation, Mudam (Luxembourg), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, MoMA (New York), SF MoMA (San Francisco), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, MoCA (Los Angeles), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Johannesburg Art Gallery, MAXXI (Rome), Louisiana Museum (Humlebaek,Denmark), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto), Israel Museum (Jerusalem), Inhotim Museum (Brumadinho, Brazil), Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), Tate Modern (London), Sifang Art Museum (Nanjing), Kunsthalle Mannheim, Vehbi Koç Foundation (Istanbul), Luma Foundation (Arles), Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest), Fundaçion Sorigue (Lerida, Spain), Guggenheim (Abu Dhabi), Kunsthalle Praha (Prague) and Amorepacific Museum of Art (Seoul); as well as private collections worldwide.
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 others.
Kentridge’s largest UK survey to date was held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2022, followed by performances from The Centre for the Less Good Idea at The Barbican. In 2022, Kentridge opened another major survey exhibition, In Praise of Shadows, at The Broad in Los Angeles. The exhibition travels to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in June this year.