Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture
Atrium, Galleries 2-8
24 August 2019 – 23 March 2020
Curated by Karel Nel
In Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, visitors encounter a range of new and historical artworks that have been produced over the last two decades, which narrate Kentridge’s engagement with three- dimensional form. Running from 24 August 2019 to 23 March 2020, Norval Foundation’s exhibition will coincide with a complimentrary exhibition Why Should I Hesitate? Putting Drawings To Work, at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which takes Kentridge’s drawing practice as its focal point.
Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture is the first exhibition internationally to address Kentridge’s output as a sculptor, and is a unique focus on this aspect of his practice. Covering several bodies of work, and testifying to his longstanding improvisation when handling three-dimensional form, this exhibition sees the origins of these works in props from his operas and images from his animations stepping off the stage and out of the screen, confronting us directly at ground level. Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture will also premiere new works commissioned for this exhibition.
A central concern of Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture is an understanding that Kentridge’s sculptures have agency. Kinetic sculptures make use of megaphones on survey tripods, a deft nod to Russian Constructivism, and imply a propogandist’s broadcasting of an impersonal and mechanical authority. In Singer Trio (2018), for example, ‘ready-made’ sewing machines are given voices for a performance enacted in unison, their megaphones synchronised as they take on a new and humorous presence in this world.
Many of Kentridge’s sculptures embody an animated spectacle. Proceeding through a seemingly random construction of abstract planes, as in World on its Hind Legs (2009), we see how graphic forms unexpectedly align, snapping into an organized whole which is visually and metaphorically charged. Move a little further, and the form dissipates once again.
Elsewhere, Kentridge’s repertoire of everyday objects and off-the-cuff ideas are translated into rows of small bronze sculptures, syntactically arranged on a shelving unit to read as lines of text on a page. In Paragraph II (2018), horse, nose, jug, camera, megaphone and others, line up to seemingly make rebuses, those visual puzzles evoking words which so delighted the early Surrealists.
Several pieces from Kentridge’s visual lexicon have been reworked into scaled-up plaster prototypes from which monumental bronze sculptures have been cast: a gigantic corkscrew, a collapsing jug of Cubist descent, a visual flourish in the form of an ampersand, and the intense presence of an enormous ciné camera – the observing alter ego of Kentridge’s prodigious output perhaps?
The ruptured narrative, so powerfully visible in Kentridge’s work, is choreographed into serried dislocations which collide the space between the personal and the political, the operatic and the mundane, the apparently irrelevant and the socially pertinent. Approaching Kentridge’s sculptures opens us up onto a Dadaist landscape, which both challenges and beguiles.
ABOUT WILLIAM KENTRIDGE
William Kentridge is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions.
His practice is born out of a cross-fertilisation between mediums and genres, and responds to the legacies of colonialism and apartheid. His aesthetics are drawn from the medium of film’s own history, from stop-motion animation to early special effects. Kentridge’s drawing, specifically the dynamism of an erased and redrawn mark, is an integral part of his expanded animation and filmmaking practice.
Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Musée du Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen and the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.
Opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s Lulu, and have been seen at opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera in New York; La Scala in Milan; English National Opera in London; Opera de Lyon, France; Amsterdam Opera, The Netherlands, amongst others. Summer 2017 saw the premiere of Kentridge’s production of Berg’s Wozzeck for the Salzburg Festival. The Head & the Load, sometimes described as a processional opera (with original music by composers Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi), opened to critical acclaim in London and New York in 2018.
Kentridge is the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities including Yale and the University of London, and in 2012 he presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. In 2010, he received the Kyoto Prize. In 2015 he was appointed an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy in London. In 2017, he received the Princesa de Asturias Award for the Arts, and in 2018, the Antonio Feltrinelli International Prize