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Norval Foundation to host first survey of William Kentridge’s Sculptures

Norval Foundation will present the first survey of internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge’s sculptural practice, entitled Why Should I Hesitate? Sculpture, opening in Cape Town in August 2019.

William Kentridge Norval Foundation sculpture South African art artist sculptor
William Kentridge in his studio with the plaster versions of Cape Silver, 2019 (left) and Open, 2019 (centre) PHOTO Stella Olivier

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 William Kentridge’s engagement with three-dimensional form. Running from 24 August 2019 to 23 March 2020, Norval Foundation’s exhibition will coincide with a complementary 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 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.

William Kentridge Norval Foundation sculpture South African art artist sculptor
Bicycle Wheel, William Kentridge, 2017. Steel, timber, brass, aluminium, bicycle parts and found objects. 228 x 172 x 100 cm PHOTO Thys Dullaart

     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 propagandist’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 organised whole that 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.

William Kentridge Norval Foundation sculpture South African art artist sculptor
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

     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 that 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.
     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 sculptures. 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 western art historical canons.

William Kentridge Norval Foundation sculpture South African art artist sculptor
Phenakistoscope, 2000, Four colour lithograph on found pages, attached to two gramophone records, machined metal shafts, gear mechanisms and wooden handle. 60 x 30 x 32 cm PHOTO John Hodgkiss

     Why Should I Hesitate? Sculpture is accompanied by a programme of talks and performances with the artist and leading voices in the cultural sector, including a collaboration with pianist and composer Kyle Shepherd.
     A series of member and public events will take place on the opening weekend, Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 August 2019.

Exhibition: Why Should I Hesitate? Sculpture
Venue: Atrium and Galleries 2-8, Norval Foundation4 Steenberg Road, Tokai
Dates: 24 August 2019 – 23 March 2020
Curators: Karel Nel, Owen Martin, Talia Naicker, Vicky Lekone

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