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William Kentridge

The artist's book release coincides with Johannesburg's recent renaissance

by Aaron Kohn in Culture on 27 February 2012

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Based in Johannesburg, South Africa's contemporary art emblem William Kentridge has played an important role in the artistic revival that has taken place in the post-industrial city in recent years. With the launch of his edition in the Tate Modern Artists Series, Kentridge brings attention to the vibrant creative community growing in what had become a derelict maze over several decades.

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The latest Tate Modern volume on Kentridge marks one of the most comprehensive publications on the artist's multidimensional work. Written by Zambian artist Kate McCrickard, the new book includes more than 100 images of Kentridge's six major projects since 1989. Kentridge's wide range of disciplines—animation, drawing, printmaking, collage, performance and music—may have seemed difficult to combine in a single publication, but McCrickard has chosen to highlight Kentridge's consistent creativity across mediums as he draws inspiration from the challenges his country has faced, both during and after Apartheid. In a quotation she includes in the book synopsis, Kentridge says, "It's not a mistake to see a shape in the cloud. That's what it is to be alive with your eyes open: to be constantly, promiscuously, putting things together."

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On 28 February, 2012 Kentridge will be signing copies of the new book at Arts on Main, established in 2009 in the eastern part of the city called the "Maboneng Precinct". The area has sprung up so many new development projects, its blocks are are also referred to as the "place of lights" for the proliferation of galleries, studios, shops and restaurants.

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Arts on Main is convenient for Kentridge, as it plays home to his studio, his printer David Krut and a multipurpose space from the Goodman Gallery, which represents Kentridge. Recently, the artist opened his studio to the public—a rare event—for a concert with Johannesburg composer Jill Richards, in which she played piano to an electronic soundtrack while 40 people sat amongst Kentridge's drawings, contraptions and artifacts. In many ways it makes sense for the South African artist, whose work has often portrayed the harsh realities of society, as well as optimism, to work in the heart of Johannesburg.

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