Survey of Prints

Smith College, Massachusetts
In 2003 the Museum purchased Atlas Procession I, a print by William Kentridge, the first work by this internationally renowned South African artist in the SCMA collection. This fall, Kentridge is the subject of a major exhibition at SCMA, William Kentridge Prints, which brings together more than 120 of the artist’s works on paper created from the 1970s to the present. The exhibition was organized by Kay Wilson of Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery, where it debuted in late 2004. By the end of 2007, the exhibition will have traveled to Smith and to two additional U.S. museums.Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955 and has lived, attended school, and worked within a two-mile radius since that time. His parents were active in resisting the injustices of the South African apartheid system. His father was a prominent attorney who made his name defending victims of government abuse— including writer and activist Stephen Biko, who died in police custody in 1977. His mother helped create the Legal Resources Centre. Kentridge’s work was first exhibited in galleries that were at the center of the country’s artistic resistance to apartheid, and much of his early work criticizes the bourgeois lifestyle made possible by that social system. Rather than directly documenting the oppression of the black South Africans or the comparatively idyllic lives of the country’s white population, the figures in his work inhabit more subtle situations, illustrating what Lesley Wright, director of the Faulconer Gallery, calls “the traps and accommodations all people accept to survive.”Kentridge has established significant bodies of work in three media—paper, film, and theater. Connoisseurs of his films and theater sets, for which the artist is best known internationally, will recognize a continuity of imagery from these other forms, as he has moved with great fluidity from one medium to the other throughout his working life. “As an artist actively involved in political issues, printmaking was a natural for Kentridge, and it has been a consistent part of his art practice from the beginning of his career,” says Aprile Gallant, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs. “This gives visitors the opportunity to see a range of Kentridge’s prints in all media created from the mid-1970s to the present day and to see the emergence of his distinctive themes, style, and vision.” (Source: Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts)
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