William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955. He attended the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (1973–76), Johannesburg Art Foundation (1976–78), and studied mime and theater at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris (1981–82).
Having witnessed first-hand one of the twentieth century’s most contentious struggles—the disso...lution of apartheid—Kentridge brings the subtlety of personal experience to his work.
Renowned for his animated drawings and films, he transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories. Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism, his work is often imbued with dreamy, lyrical undertones or comedic bits of self-deprecation that render his powerful messages both alluring and ambivalent.
Recognisable for his signature expressive, gestural drawings in black charcoal and ink he became known for his short, lyrical animated films, which show charcoal drawings in various states of composition and erasure.
In his attempts to codify the place of politics in his work Kentridge says he likes the example set by Manet, “who did very political work but also painted a lot of flowers. I’ve never felt I needed to distinguish strongly between work that was about the history of art and work about the history of the country. It all flows into the studio and different parts get picked up at different moments.”
“I was as sceptical and derisory as anyone at the thought of a person putting a pile of bricks in the Tate. Joseph Beuys’s idea of pumping honey through a tube around museum as political art? That wasn’t politics. Politics was the police arresting you and putting electrodes on your testicles. I was interested in early modernism, and having been brought up in a society full of violence and absurdity I understood the Dadaists very well. But I couldn’t see the link between them and the minimalists and conceptualists. It’s taken me a long time to me to appreciate it and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into understanding the world I was in.”
His work has been exhibited throughout the world since the 1980s and his work is held in collections around the world.
Kentridge has had major exhibitions at The Whitworth (2018), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2017), MoMA, New York (2010), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, (2007); and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004); among others. He has also participated in Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008);