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"The First American Retrospective of William Kentridge"
2001-06-02 until 2001-09-16
New Museum of Contemporary Art
New York, NY, USA

The first American retrospective of internationally acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge opens at the New Museum of Contemporary Art on June 2, 2001 and remains on view through September 16, 2001. The exhibition includes eleven of Kentridge's animated films together with over 60 drawings, two new sculptural installations, and videotapes of theater and opera productions designed and scripted by the artist. Known for expressing the complex political and historical realities of his homeland, Kentridge's poetic and haunting work transcends the problems of South Africa to address the human condition in general.

Co-organized by the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, William Kentridge will travel across the United States over the next 18 months, concluding in the artist's native South Africa in 2003. Philip Morris Companies is the sponsor of the national and international tours of William Kentridge.

At the core of the exhibition are Kentridge's animated films including Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (1989), WEIGHING...and WANTING (1997-97), and Stereoscope (1999). Based on vigorous black-and-white charcoal drawings frequently enhanced by strokes of red or blue pastel, Kentridge's short animations are an ongoing narrative featuring the pin-stripe-suited, factory-owner Soho Eckstein whose guilt-laden memory characterizes one aspect of contemporary South Africa and his alter ego, Felix Teitlebaum, a thoughtful artist who competes for the attentions of Soho's wife. The characters navigate a hypnotic vortex of civil strife, social inequity, and industrial pillage. Images of tenderness alternate with violence and fantasy as Soho and Felix explore the interrelation of identity, memory, guilt, and forgiveness against the backdrop of a decimated landscape.

Each film, which varies in length from three to eight minutes, vividly illustrates the process and complexity of drawing. The artist develops each sequence by photographing hundreds of modifications, additions, and erasures to a single drawing. Throughout the exhibition, substantive groupings of Kentridge's drawings for projection are presented with corresponding films.

Kentridge's theater projects, which are shown as video excerpts, include Faustus in Africa (1995), a version of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe's celebrated story; Il Ritorno d'Ulisse (1998), an adaptation of Claudio Monteverdi's 1641 opera based on Homer's epic; and Ubu and the Truth Commission (1997) in which Alfred Jarry's satire about a ridiculous but deadly despot signifies the South African process of reconciling the legacy of apartheid.

The artist's most recent work is represented by Medicine Chest (2001), a sculptural installation that funnels film images though a mirrored medicine chest. Created especially for the exhibition, the installation underscores the theatricality of his imagery and exemplifies the interdisciplinary fusion unique to Kentridge's work.


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