William Kentridge, Five Themes

William Kentridge, Five Themes

Jeu de Paume

William Kentridge
Portage (detail)
Collection of the artist, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris, and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
Photo: John Hodgkiss
Courtesy the artist © 2010 William Kentridge

June 25, 2010

William Kentridge
Five Themes

29 June – 5 September 2010

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris

“I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain endings. An art (and a politics) in which optimism is kept in check and nihilism at bay.” (William Kentridge)

South African artist William Kentridge came to attention on the international scene in the 1990s, thanks to a series of short animation films – he prefers to call them “drawings for projection” – depicting everyday life under apartheid. In the works he has produced since the end of the apartheid regime, which feature in this exhibition, he has broadened his themes, leaving his immediate environment to examine other political conflicts. Contrary to the norm for much political art, Kentridge takes a nuanced approach as he explores the ambiguous, often contradictory dynamic, which entangles perpetrators, witnesses and victims.

“William Kentridge, Five Themes” brings together some forty pieces, many of them made since 2000. It demonstrates the variety of Kentridge’s output, which ranges across such media as drawing, film, collage, prints, sculpture and stage sets. His longstanding interest in theatre – he was a cofounder of Johannesburg’s Junction Avenue Theatre Company in the 1970s, and since then has collaborated on several occasions with the Handspring Puppet Company — is reflected in the dramatic and even dramaturgical quality of his work. Kentridge is one of the few artists active today capable of connecting the visual arts, cinema and the performing arts. He does not so much alternate between these disciplines as shift fluently around them, going from theatre to drawing and from drawing to film. Naturally, his work echoes the South African experience, but it also draws on a wide variety of European sources, notably in literature, opera, theatre and early cinema, from which he takes the inspiration for the archetypal characters in his narratives. These figures embody and act out a complex universe in which the forces of good and evil are complementary and inseparable.

In recent years Kentridge has made a profound conceptual change in his work by adopting a reflexive and at the same time amused view of his personal relation to the world. Where in his first animations he presented a whole troupe of fictive characters, he himself is now the main character – both the maker of the drawings and the cinematographic auteur – of his own creations.

Giving particular prominence to his most recent pieces, such as Learning from the Absurd: The Nose (2008), “William Kentridge, Five Themes” reveals, for the first time in France, the diversity of his output.

Tuesday 29 June, 6 pm: Book signing with William Kentridge at Jeu de Paume bookstore
Tuesday 29 June, 7 pm: Conversation between William Kentridge and Denis Hirson, writer at the auditorium.

Curator: Mark Rosenthal, adjunct curator at the Norton Museum of Art
Exhibition catalogue: “William Kentridge, Cinq thèmes”, Jeu de Paume Publishing, Paris / Cinq Continents, 2010.
Exhibition organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Norton Museum of Art.
Neuflize Vie, global partner of Jeu de Paume, supports the exhibition “William Kentridge, Five themes”

And also…
William Kentridge, Egyptian Sketchbook
at the Louvre museum
July 1–August 30, 2010

Inspired by Egypt, drawings by William Kentridge will be presented in the Department of Graphic Arts, alongside a selection of drawings from the Louvre’s collections. Video works, made out of his drawings and conceived especially for the museum, will be projected in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities.
Le Louvre
Aile Denon, 1st floor, Salle 33 / Aile Sully, 1st floor, Salle 26


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