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Review: Kentridge at SLAM is inspiring, relevant and more

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 5, 2011 - "Visual Musings: Prints by William Kentridge" and the "New Media Series: William Kentridge - Two Films" are a perfect introduction to the South African artist's works for the uninitiated, while followers of Kentridge's work will relish the chance to see his remarkable artistic processes and thematics on display in differing media.

The films, at the St. Louis Art Museum, are mesmerizing, particularly "Weighing ... and Wanting" (1998), a relatively early work employing stop-action to animate the artist's characteristic drawing process. Forms and figures are alternately built up and erased, the paper serving as a living palimpsest. The story follows the character of Soho Eckstein, whose own identity and experiences are inextricably bound up with his South African homeland.

"Journey to the Moon" (2003) is a less somber, more playful meditation on Kentridge's working method that simultaneously pays homage to the pioneering French filmmaker Georges Melies. In another gallery, Kentridge's prints also display his sure-handed, sensitive markmaking, as well as the artist's epic imagination.

"Nose" (2007-09), a series of prints based on Nikolai Gogol's brilliant satirical short story, follows the lead character -- a disembodied nose -- as it journeys through history and gets intimate with a variety of artworks.

Kentridge is utterly unique in the field of contemporary art; his work is inspiring, socially relevant, humorous and emotionally wrenching at once.

Ivy Cooper, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon art critic. 

Ivy Cooper
Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.