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CAC Malaga presents the first exhibition of William Kentridge's tapestries in Spain
South African artist William Kentridge poses in his exhibition 'Won't you join the dancing?' at the Malaga Contemporary Art Center, in Malaga, Spain. The exhibition opens to the public from 14 February to 13 May. EPA/DANIEL PEREZ.

MALAGA.- The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga is presenting William Kentridge: Won’t you join the dance?, the first exhibition of this South African artist’s tapestries to be held in Spain. Mosaics, sculptures, preliminary studies, collages, videos and Kentridge’s unique drawings will also be included in this exhibition, which is curated by Fernando Francés. The central work is a tapestry based on a 19th-century map of Malaga, which will be shown to the public for the first time at the CAC Málaga. The exhibition offers an overview of the most recent output of one of the most influential and prolific artists working today.

In the work of William Kentridge (born Johannesburg, 1955) we frequently encounter porters who carry objects such as a bed, a lamp or a typewriter, in reference to the fact that his characters “bear the weight of the world on their shoulders”. Elsewhere, the shadows in his tapestries suggest the movement and migration of peoples from one place to another and between one idea and another, as has always happened over the course of history. Kentridge’s work reflects the transformation of humanity and the evolution of peoples, cities and countries as they move towards their present state of existence. More than twenty tapestries are to be seen in the exhibition now presented by the CAC Málaga, which offers a comprehensive overview of William Kentridge’s most recent work, including mosaics, videos, sculpture, collage and the artist’s celebrated drawings.

In a way comparable to the threads that are knotted together in his tapestries, William Kentridge creates works that express his interpretation of social changes. The new, previously un-exhibited work to be shown in this exhibition with the title of Won’t you join the dance? (2011) is based on a 19th-century map by Luis Thuillier. Measuring 315 x 415cm, this tapestry has been specially designed for Malaga. Its large scale will allow visitors to appreciate the artist’s detailed, painstaking work, which reproduces every detail of the original map.

For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga, “William Kentridge is not only one of the most interesting artists working today: he is also one of the most important figures in the recent history of art and undoubtedly the leading Jewish artist of the 20th century. Among artists who have analysed and interpreted historical, political, social and artistic contexts in their work, he can be considered the pre-eminent figure. The influence of his drawings, the traces that they leave behind and the interpretation that the artist makes of his characters all lend themselves to a double reading within the historical-political context in which William Kentridge has lived. His manner of portraying apartheid has made him a unique artist with regard to his defence of human rights to the extent that criticising the injustices that the legacy of colonialism has left in his country is almost an obligation for him.”

In particular, the unique nature of William Kentridge’s works derives from his use of drawing and the erasure of drawing. In order to complete each work the artist makes a large number of preliminary studies before arriving at the final concept. For Kentridge the first drawings are as important as the finished work and the present exhibition at the CAC Málaga offers the first opportunity in Spain to see the artist’s creative process as a whole.

The relationship between European and African history, specifically colonialism and the repercussions that it has had in the countries in question are issues that Kentridge aims to highlight in his work. Descendents of Jewish immigrants, his family has been active in the struggle against apartheid. A photograph that he saw as a child of an act of violence on the street left its mark on his early works, which involved a considerable element of violence. Kentridge plays with the process of rubbing out, of creating the drawing, un-making it and painting over it as a way ensuring that the trace that it leaves behind survives and hence that we must not forget events that have happened and which have profoundly influenced the history of his own country. It could be said that Kentridge has chosen to focus on the historical, social and aesthetic consequences of colonial rule.

William Kentridge studied Politics and African Studies at the University of Witwatersrand then studied at the Art Foundation in Johannesburg. He subsequently moved to Paris to train at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School. Kentridge began his career as an actor and as a theatre producer and director. He is still active in these fields, making use of multimedia technology in his productions. His short animation films have earned him numerous international awards. In 2009 Kentridge directed Woyzeck on the Highveld at the Teatro Cánovas in Malaga, a work based on Georg Büchner’s play. In March of last year he directed The Magic Flute by Mozart at La Scala in Milan, which was transmitted live to the Albéniz Cinema in Malaga. This June he is invited artist at Documenta XIII in Kassel.

Since the 1990s William Kentridge’s work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries worldwide. Particularly outstanding has been his participation in Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997 and 2003), the exhibitions held at the MoMA in New York (1998 and 2010), the Albertina in Vienna (2010) and the Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010). His production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was performed at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Aix-en-Provence festival and at La Scala in Milan (2011). To coincide with the most important exhibition of his work to date, held at the MoMA in New York, William Kentridge directed The Nose by Shostakovich at the Met in New York in 2010 (also performed at the Aix and Lyons festivals in 2011). Again in 2010, this time at the Louvre in Paris, the artist presented Carnets d’Egipte, a project specially designed for the museum’s Egyptian gallery. That same year Kentridge was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize for his contribution to the arts and philosophy. In 2011 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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