Kentridge’s Universal Archive: Challenging Perception

"Twelve Coffee Pots." 2012. From Universal Archive series. Linocut printed on non-archival pages from Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 41 1/3” x 40 3/4”. Image courtesy of Gund Gallery, Kenyon College,and David Krut Projects, Johannesburg/New York.


UNIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT
WILLIAM KENTRIDGE: UNIVERSAL ARCHIVE
FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM
1073 NORTH BENSON ROAD
FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT

by Kristin Nord

For nearly 50 years, the brilliant South African artist William Kentridge has made printmaking a major part of his studio practice, producing more than 300 works that range from etching, drypoint and engraving to silkscreen, lithograph and linocut.

It is 75 of the latter employed by the artist, used as illustrations for Norton Lectures that he delivered at Harvard in 2012, that form the traveling exhibition, “William Kentridge: Universal Archive,” arriving on March 1 at the Fairfield Museum of Art.

The lectures, compiled and published as a book entitled, “Six Drawing Lessons,” begins with a meditation on Plato’s Cave and fans out in brilliant bursts to capture the artist’s thoughts on studio practice and the confluence of ideas, experimentation and failure necessary in the creation of enduring work. Cultural references also play significant roles in Kentridge’s art — from the influence of missionaries on artisanal output in colonized African countries, to the role of apartheid and ongoing political debate in his native Johannesburg. His linocuts champion familiar Kentridge iconography — his coffee pots, typewriters, cats, trees and nudes — and were used in conjunction with his lectures.

As he deconstructs the works in this series, he challenges the viewer to experience the ways in which the unconscious leaps to make sense of the marks and shards on paper. And his coffee pots begin to anthropomorphize — would he have us see the woman in a long skirt or something of our own making?

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