Sunday, March 15, 2009

William Kentridge at SFMOMA

The Kentridge show is a thematic retrospective that impresses long-time fans with his recent, more complex work and does a good job of introducing his recurring motifs to everyone else. I exited the last film room holding my head, feeling like my brain had been punctured by a thousand new thoughts, filled to overflowing and leaking. The museum staffer who was next to the exit said, "Everyone's coming out like that - what's in there?"

Whether it's drawing, printing, or films, Kentridge is sticking with his use of black, white and touches of red - those ancient pigments that denote primal, mythic core questions. He uses images of himself as Everyartist, a shapeshifter who communes with birds and identifies with a hunted rhinoceros.

The most recent "films" from Kentridge are true multimedia pieces. A little box theater (like the puppet theaters on European streets) plays hand-drawn films on shifting screens with mechanical figures gliding in and out of the stage wings, interacting with the film and each other. The sides of the box are open so that you can watch the mechanics as well as the show. Music continues to play a huge role in his work. A couple of the films are loosely based on Mozart operas, and he uses African music in others.

When I entered the last room, I saw a circle of people around a big glowing dish and thought at first that it was a camera obscura. I quickly realized that it was round movie screen, animated by a projector above us. In the middle of the "dish" was a mirrored cylinder. The movie was an animated anamorphic projection which circled the dish in a constant fuzzy procession but reflected in the cylinder as a carefully rendered cartoon of the carnival of life and death.

I'd highly recommend that you see the exhibit in chronological order, starting with the room to the left of (outside) the main exhibit, as the works build on each other.

Image is William Kentridge's " Act IV Scene 7" from "Ubu Tells the Truth", via artthrob

1 comment:

namastenancy said...

The NY Times has an interesting article on him in today's edition: