Art Imitates Life

William Kentridge's Homage to Dürer

Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

William Kentridge, Melancholia, from the present lot

South African artist and filmmaker William Kentridge’s career and oeuvre is astoundingly diverse, combining many different genres and approaches to art including drawing, printmaking, film, performance, and collage, and defying easy categorization. One of Kentridge’s guiding artistic tenets is to mimic the experience of being human as honestly as possible; stereoscopic images are an ideal vehicle for this expression, allowing him to imitate life in its chaotic, divided, and unpredictable multifaceted nature. His Stereoscopic Suite from 2007, similar to much of his work, grapples with darker elements of the human condition (melancholia, for instance, is characterized by extreme depression, even hallucinations) and continues the artist’s exploration of broader artistic themes. The Brodsky Center explains:

“Kentridge constructed and photographed three-dimensional tableaux in his studio. The photographs were turned into photogravures and split and paired by Randy Hemming­haus, [our] master printer. When viewed through a [stereoscope], these im­ages reconstitute their dimensionality and pop like stage sets. [They] are a continuation of the artist’s interest in the medium of sight and 16th-century visual experimentation. Kentridge is like a visual magician. He explores and deconstructs the mechanics of seeing to create a kind of wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, that feature his own personal iconography. These works are also an homage to Albrecht Dürer and make references in particular to the famous prints, Melancholia [sic] and Rhinoceros.”

Albrecht Dürer, The Rhinoceros, 1515. The Metropolitan Museum of New York.

William Kentridge, Larder, from the present lot

I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain ending - an which optimism is kept in check, and nihilism at bay.

William Kentridge