Six Drawing Lessons

William Kentridge. Harvard Univ, $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-674-36580-3
This collection of South African artist Kentridge’s Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard in 2012, is an enlightening, circuitous, and self-reflexive performance that delves into his greatest obsessions in the realms of art, politics, history, and image-making. Across six lectures, Kentridge discusses topics including Plato’s cave allegory (a subject that looms over much, if not all, of the book), Africa’s colonies, and the violence of the Enlightenment. He delivers sharp insights into the history and character of Johannesburg; his memories from growing up under apartheid provide some of the book’s most lucid moments. He also elaborates upon life in the art studio (a “safe space for stupidity”) and devotes much of his fifth lecture to a Rainer Maria Rilke poem. Time—including how it affects work in the studio—and memory are also major themes. The argument here is really an anti-argument; Kentridge emphasizes the need to occupy the gap between certainty and uncertainty, and stresses “being aware of the limits of seeing,” and “our own limits of understanding, the limits of our memory, but prodding the memory nonetheless.” These oblique lectures resist becoming linear, simplistic, or conclusive themselves. This is an essential book for anybody seeking a better understanding of Kentridge’s work. 120 color illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
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