William Kentridge’s first international sculpture exhibition

Norval Foundation presents the first survey of internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge’s sculptural practice, in Cape Town. In Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, visitors will 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 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.

William Kentridge in his studio with the plaster versions of Cape Silver, 2019 (left) and Open, 2019 (centre). Photo: Stella Olivier © Courtesy William Kentridge
William Kentridge in his studio with the plaster versions of Cape Silver, 2019 (left) and Open, 2019 (centre).
Photo: Stella Olivier
© Courtesy William Kentridge

The first exhibition to address Kentridge’s output as a sculptor

Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture will be 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.

Open 2019 Plaster 355 x 170 x 140 cm © Photo: Stella Olivier © Courtesy William Kentridge
Open,2019. Plaster
355 x 170 x 140 cm
© Photo: Stella Olivier. Courtesy William Kentridge

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.

“Norval Foundation is presenting, for the first time, an exhibition focused solely on William Kentridge’s sculptural practice, working in conjunction with the artist and his studio. Kentridges’ sculptures embrace a spontaneous approach and have recently evolved towards the massive, and the monumental. Simultaneously, and in tension to the monumental aspects of his practice, he is revealed to be a choreographer as much as a sculptor.”

Karel Nel, Senior Advising Curator, Norval Foundation.

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Dimitri Fagbohoun, Kotarman, Microcosmos II, 2018. Unique Artwork Bronze, wooden base, glass bell
Dimitri Fagbohoun, Kotarman, Microcosmos II, 2018.
Unique Artwork Bronze, wooden base, glass bell. Click on the image to find out more.

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?

Sculptures from William Kentridge; Why should I hesitate at the Norval Foundation
Left: Fill, 2019. Bronze. 82 x 47 x 83 cm.
Middle: Ring, 2019. Bronze. 90 x 62 x 67 cm
Right: &, 2019. Bronze. 79 x 58 x 81 cm
© William Kentridge

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.

“Norval Foundation is proud to be hosting Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture. A key aspect of the Foundation is our commitment to exhibiting the sculptural and installation based practices of a variety of artists, which is facilitated by our purpose-designed building. In particular, we invite artists and curators to respond to gallery eight, our largest gallery, with William Kentridge’s exhibition exemplifying this. The gallery has reinforced floors to support works that weigh as much as eight tons, and reach as high as nine metres. The monumental size of this gallery sits in an ideal contrast to the anti-monumental, spontaneous and theatrical sculptures that form part of this exhibition.”

Elana Brundyn, CEO, Norval Foundation.
Procession 2000 25/26 bronze figures, tressels, wood Various dimensions : from 33x25x17 cm to 40 x 32x25 cm
Procession 2000. 25/26 bronze figures, tressels, wood
Various dimensions : from 33x25x17 cm to 40 x 32×25 cm
© Courtesy William Kentridge

Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture will be accompanied by a visually rich publication, conceived in collaboration with the artist, extending the exhibition in print form. It includes a section that is a catalogue raisonné of William Kentridge’s sculptural practice to date, with another presenting preparatory sketches for several key artworks. It also includes a photo essay charting the development of Kentridge’s large Lexicon sculptures that are included in the exhibition, from maquette stage to plaster original, and then through the bronze casting process itself. A comprehensive essay by Dr. David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art at Columbia University, and Director of The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, locates William Kentridge’s work within several key artistic practices and movements of the Western art historical canon.

William Kentridge, Why Should I Hesitate : Sculpture
24 August 2019 – 23 Mars 2020
Atrium and Galleries 2–8
Norval Foundation
4 Steenberg Road Tokai, Cape Town 7945 South Africa
Exhibition Curators: Karel Nel, Owen Martin, Talia Naicker, Vicky Lekone
Monday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
Tuesday Closed
Last admission 45 minutes before closing

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