In Praise of Shadows presents a selection of works by the South African artist William Kentridge (b. 1955) from the Museum's collection. They were acquired over the past twelve years by two departments: Drawings and Prints and Modern and Contemporary Art.
Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, where he still lives and works, to parents of Lithuanian Jewish descent (his father is the renowned trial lawyer Sydney Kentridge, who supported many anti-apartheid causes). After attending drama school, Kentridge was active in theater and television production in the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s—coinciding with the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa—Kentridge's live theater work and the stop-motion animated films he developed from charcoal drawings found an increasingly international audience. As the artist himself has often said, his primary medium is drawing, and the larger-scale multimedia work for which he is so admired is rooted in his experiments with charcoal, chalk, graphite, and the etched and printed line.
Kentridge's work in all media—drawings, video, prints, performance, theater, and opera design—deftly combines visually seductive imagery with probing explorations of the intertwined and often painful histories of science, humanism, colonialism, and globalization. Influenced by the ongoing struggle for equality in his own country and dedicated to revealing the cruel legacies of European rule in Africa, Kentridge evokes a kaleidoscope of references with deep intellectual rigor in even the most modest of his works on paper.