Landmark exhibition 'William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows' travels to the MFAH
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Landmark exhibition 'William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows' travels to the MFAH
William Kentridge, Art in a State of Grace, Art in a State of Hope, Art in a State of Siege, 1988. Silkscreen on velin d’arches cream and brown paper, printed by Malcolm Christian, Caversham Press, Lidgetton, South Africa, edition of 13, courtesy of the artist. © William Kentridge.

HOUSTON, TX.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is opening the acclaimed exhibition William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows, from June 25 to September 10, 2023. Organized in cooperation with The Broad, Los Angeles, where it opened in November 2022, the exhibition surveys 35 years of the celebrated South African artist’s career, and features more than 80 works touching on every aspect of Kentridge’s wide-ranging investigations in the visual arts, film, and theater.

Born in Johannesburg in 1955, where he continues to live and work today, Kentridge has dedicated much of his career to exploring the social and political conditions of his home country, from the Apartheid era (1948–91), through South Africa’s transition to desegregation and democratic elections (1991–94), and to its present-day realities. Featuring his world-renowned charcoal drawings and animated films, as well as prints, bronzes, tapestries, and theater models, William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows uses the paradoxes of light and shadow to directly engage with the aftermath of colonialism, the recording and memory of historical narratives, and how the artist’s studio can disrupt the certainties of long-held belief systems.

“We are thrilled to be able to exhibit William Kentridge’s expansive work in Houston,” said Gary Tinterow, Director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “His inimitable art remains so compelling and urgent because it demonstrates the universal need to address inequity and social justice everywhere throughout the world, not just in his native South Africa. Lulled by the beauty of his drawing and the immersive nature of his installations, visitors will be amazed by Kentridge’s ability to provoke revelations about the complexity of human nature.” “William Kentridge brings a profound humanism and collaborative spirit to every aspect of his work,” added Alison de Lima Greene, the MFAH’s Isabel Brown Wilson curator of modern and contemporary art. “He surveys the world around us with an attentive and critical eye, uncovering stories that are at once viscerally personal and universally relatable.”

Organized thematically and chronologically, the Houston presentation opens with Kentridge’s depictions of Johannesburg and introduces his most famous protagonist, the industrial magnate Soho Eckstein, through drawings and films that range from 1989 to 2020. Subsequent galleries include works related to Kentridge’s theater and opera productions, including his restaging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, represented by a model theater and preparatory drawings from 2005. Works addressing the toxic legacy of colonialism and propaganda occupy the next gallery, which is then followed by 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès; Day for Night; and Journey to the Moon (2003), an immersive environment made up of complementary projections that reveal how everyday experience, experimentation, and associative play a critical role in Kentridge’s art making. The exhibition concludes with KABOOM!, a video installation from 2018, as well as recent works that reaffirm the creative act as means of political engagement and transformative knowledge.

Publication William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows is accompanied by a 288- page, fully illustrated catalogue, published by The Broad in collaboration with Delmonico Books. The publication features essays by Ed Schad, curator at The Broad; artist and writer Ann McCoy; and renowned novelist and thinker Zakes Mda. Notably, the volume also includes a conversation between Kentridge and revolutionary film and sound editor Walter Murch, and an additional statement by the artist.

The Artist

For decades, William Kentridge (born 1955) has anchored his studio practice in charcoal drawing, moving from an associative and improvisational handling of images on paper into film, sculpture, opera and theater performances, printmaking, and many other mediums. His art has sought to explore the edges, cracks, and uncertain spaces of a South Africa in transition from an oppressive, racially segregated society to an uncertain and challenging democracy.

The work of William Kentridge has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Musée du Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, the Kunstmuseum in Basel, and Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation in Cape Town. Opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute,
Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s operas Lulu and Wozzeck.

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