In September 2022, the Royal Academy of Arts will host a major exhibition of the work of the internationally celebrated South African artist, William Kentridge. Working closely with the artist and his studio, this ambitious and immersive exhibition has been specifically curated for the Royal Academy and will encompass the broad repertoire of Kentridge’s forty-year career. It will bring together important works spanning from the 1980s through to the present day, including charcoal drawings, animated films, a mechanical theatre, sculptures, tapestries and performance pieces.
William Kentridge, Drawing for The Head & The Load (The trumpets we used to blow), 2018.
William Kentridge is known for his distinctive drawings, animated films, performances, and largescale productions. While at times his work is semi-autobiographical, he also uses history to highlight the inequities, barbarity, and absurdities of the modern world. A particular area of focus is the European colonisation of and the ongoing post-colonial legacy across the African continent. The issues of racial inequality combined with social, political, and economic injustices are a critical component of Kentridge’s work. For many years Kentridge has also worked closely with a group of creative collaborators including composers, dancers, stage designers, puppeteers, weavers, printmakers, and metalsmiths.
William Kentridge,The Conservationists’ Ball, 1985.
A selection of Kentridge’s early, rarely-seen drawings from the 1980s and 1990s will be presented, including three triptychs displayed together for the first time and the most significant work from the period, The Conservationist’s Ball, 1985. Around 25 large charcoal drawings, made for the creative process of the eleven animated Drawings for Projection, will also be shown. An extensive selection of drawings from the entire series will be displayed together with five of the eleven animated charcoal-drawing films made between 1989 – 2020.
Several further important films, performances and installations will feature in the exhibition. A key installation will be Black Box / Chambre Noire, 2005, a mechanical theatre piece including puppets and projections, which interrogates the harrowing story of the massacre of the Herero people in Namibia, now considered the first genocide of the twentieth century.
Ubu Tells the Truth, 1997, is a sharply critical animated film referencing the play Ubu Roi (1986) by French symbolist writer Alfred Jarry, which reveals the brutality of the apartheid system in South Africa. Alongside the film, Kentridge will create a large site-specific wall drawing to complement the film. Notes Towards a Model Opera, 2015, is a three-screen projection which reflects on modern Chinese history and Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Two of Kentridge’s films will have their first UK presentations in the exhibition; the short, animated film, De como não fui ministro d’estado, 2012 and Sibyl, 2019.
Willliam Kentridge, Comrade Tree, I Report to You, 2020.
Amongst the most recent works, made in 2021 – 2022, will be a sequence of large-scale tapestries, created especially for the Royal Academy galleries and made in the Stephens Tapestry Studio in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. There will also be a group of large flower drawings, as well as a selection of Kentridge’s distinctive tree drawings. Many of these include rubrics, recalling a tradition that dates back to medieval manuscripts to emphasise certain words within a text. Conjunctions of words are gathered by Kentridge and used in his drawings in an apparently random manner.
For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here
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