Review of William Kentridge: Five Themes

MoMA
11 west 53rd (NYC)
William Kentridge: Five Themes
February 14 through May 17, 2010
http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/964

The large exhibition William Kentridge: Five Themes was organized as a traveling exhibition by SFMoMA (San Fransisco, Fort Worth, West Palm Beach, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Jerusalem) and is currently at MoMA.  The exhibition spans nearly three decades of Kentridge’s work. Kentridge is most well known for his stop motion animations from charcoal on paper that he refers to as “stone-age animation.” Also included in the exhibition are prints, books, collage, and sculpture. As the title of the show implies, Kentridge’s work is exploring five themes: ubu and the procession (occasional and residual hope), SOHO and Felix (thick time), artist in the studio (parcours d’atelier), voice the magic flute (sarastro and the master’s), and the nose (learning from the absurd).

William Kentridge. Drawing from Stereoscope 1998–99. Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 47 1/4 x 63" (120 x 160 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, with special contributions from Anonymous, Scott J. Lorinsky, Yasufumi Nakamura, and The Wider Foundation

William Kentridge. Drawing from Stereoscope 1998–99. Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 47 1/4 x 63" (120 x 160 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, with special contributions from Anonymous, Scott J. Lorinsky, Yasufumi Nakamura, and The Wider Foundation

I am taken with Kentridge’s animations. MoMA has set up the show so that there is ample space dedicated to projecting these films.
This is done almost to a fault, since it often seems that the accompanying art was an afterthought.  This is unfortunate, as all of his works deserve equal time, space and consideration. His process of animation is hard to describe but beautiful to watch as a scene is continually overdrawn to create the motion, which often creates a ghosting from previous scenes to a wonderful effect.

It is hard not to compare Kentridge’s show to Tim Burton’s show, also currently a large show at MoMA, and wonder how much planning or mere coincidence is at work here. Both are known for their film, being wonderful illustrators, and dealing with dark issues. For Burton there is much less video included in the main exhibition space (as his movies are being screened in the theater at MoMA) but many small works pack the walls. It seems as though for the general public Burton is the main draw, but I can only hope that many will stop on the second floor for the Kentridge show and wander though this wonderful, challenging and engaging exhibition.


One thought on “Review of William Kentridge: Five Themes

  1. No review I’ve read seems to mention how distracting and disrespectful MOMA has been by having the soundtracks of the movies so loud they overlap and destroy each other. The work is amazing, but when you consider how carefully Kentridge and all the people who have worked adding music to films, it is shocking that their contribution is so denigrated.

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