William Kentridge, Marina Abramović, and Why I Love MoMA

Quite recently, the Museum of Modern Art opened two phenomenal exhibits, both of which are rather distant aesthetically, yet arise from not only similar time periods but also similar questions from the self-as-artist and the viewer’s responsibility, whether they have one or not, etc.  They also press from political stances, poetically that is.

The first show I want to talk about is William Kentridge:  Five Themes.  As not to get a head of myself, I will start by briefing myself and you, if there is a you reading, of his background.  Kentridge is a South African artist who studied fine art, theatre, and art direction.  Known mostly for his animated films, Kentridge’s work as an illustrator is what, quite simply, blew me away upon first visit–having gone three times in just over a week now.  The illustrations, some of which are mono-type prints, a form Kentridge created, are made up of etchings and many of them, including those that make up the animations, are masterful charcoal worlds, balanced by the swift spread of the medium itself.

This drawing above is from Stereoscope, which is one of many films at the exhibition.  Particularly, this piece captures what is quite essential to the characters Kentridge creates, returns to, and masters–those under the pressures and frailties of a system or government, those who cannot seem to get out.  However, I don’t want to try and run a critical track around all of this work.  I want only to say that I may have never seen an installation so profound in my entire life.  Room after room is packed with drawings, films, projected rarities, and a reminder to viewers that all of these forms are not separate from one another, that they need one another almost in a food pyramid kind of way.  I am already overwhelmed in trying to recreate what I saw.  In starting to write this I felt a massive urge to convey the beauty and monstrosity of this exhibit yet now I feel the desire to own what I know I saw and hide from explanations.  If you want more, go here, or here, or even here, where this exhibition started.

I shall say more on Abramović soon, as I want to return to her exhibit.  I only want to comment briefly on how difficult it is to restage performance art.

Read a decent article/review here to get to know Marina’s works.

What all this means is that I am forever moved by MoMa and that in trying to dedicate 1-2 visits a week there, if only to look at one or two things for a few hours, is something that keeps me in check and alleviates the weight of thinking not enough is being recognized.


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