South African artist William Kentridge. Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexandra Mudrats.
MUMBAI - I didn’t know the work of the South African artist William Kentridge very well when his retrospective first went on view at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, and I loved his personal, self-deprecating approach to his country’s tumultuous and troubled history. His playful engagement with the performing arts was also charming, especially his sets and other works related to his staging of Shostakovich’s The Nose. There’s a witty element in everything he does, even when the subject matter is serious.
So on my recent trip to Mumbai, I was pleased to see a fairly substantial show of Kentridge’s work at Volte Gallery, in the city’s Colaba neighborhood. Volte represents Kentridge in India, and “Poems I Used to Know” (which just ended) featured works in a variety of media, including some related to The Nose.
Quite a few pieces in the show (which ranged from tapestry to video) were drawings or paintings on pages torn out of books; Kentridge has a way of making that seem like a learned move rather than an act of vandalism. His untitled 2012 work consisting of India ink on pages of the Oxford Universal Dictionary held my attention—it’s a very evolved collage dominated by the image of a shell, and, given the Mumbai setting, India ink seemed a highly appropriate material. He’s one of those artists who gets more interesting the more of his work I see, so I’m looking forward to the next encounter already.