Sunday, March 15, 2009

William Kentridge, Magician (at SFMOMA)

The usual terms - art exhibit, art show - don't come close to explaining the visual explosion that has just opened at SF MOMA. William Kentridge, the South African artist who is responsible for the magic on display, is as much a theater artist as a visual artist - but with his work these terms too seem irrelevant and inadequate. He is a master draftsman of the old style, a fact that brought a wonderful feeling of relief on my part, making me aware of how much I miss expecting solid, basic drawing in contemporary art. He marries his considerable skill and understanding of the traditional, however, with breathtakingly innovation in the handling of movement, space, action, and technology. The 'show' presents his work in many formats, including framed works on flat walls, but most fascinating are the projections of his films and video sequences, which move seamlessly from whimsy to the gravity of politics and history; a particularly powerful video is a surreal cartoon-like feature with a commedia del arte cast including a dancing tripod and a cat, but which becomes increasingly loud and demanding as it involves the spectator in the world of apartheid politics. Another room shows Kentridge, a middle-aged, fleshy man who moves with the grace of an actor, in his studio, creating and drawing, drawing himself, and creating himself watching himself create. Another gives an idea of a production of Gogol's 'The Nose' in which Kentridge weaves references to Russian Constructivism and Russian political history - it will be staged by the Metropolitan Opera in 2010 or 2011. The galleries are full of noise and action, visually and audibly signalling that this is no ordinary exhibit or ordinary artist. Don't miss this.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Can't wait to see this show! As usual, Marilyn, you have provoked my interest. I will be back to comment more intelligently once I've seen the show.

-Rick