Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kentridge preview at SF MOMA

A kind friend allowed me to accompany him to the SFMOMA on Friday night for the members' preview of William Kentridge: Five Themes, opening this weekend. Both the foyer & the galleries were pretty crowded, so I learned that these preview parties are not necessarily the best time to get a look at the art. My friend & I thought that the museum missed an opportunity to do something more interactive with the foyer, instead of just using it to sell drinks.

I had not heard of Kentridge before, but it seems that the important things to know are that he is a white South African & that he has an interest in theater & animation. His work has a rough-grained sense of play & humor. There are a number of large drawings & a film in which he depicts himself as Père Ubu. A half-dozen of his films are projected simultaneously around the walls of one gallery. There's also a very cool animation that one views as a reflection in an anamorphic cylinder. Most impressive is a mechanical toy theater that puts on a crude opera of sorts, complete with recorded singing, projections, moving backdrops & robotic actors. I like that all the workings are exposed, including the computer that controls the show. On the other hand I couldn't help thinking that Disneyland does the same sort of thing, but in a much more sophisticated package. It was difficult to take all of this in, because these galleries were the most packed.

It was easier & more enjoyable to view Picturing Modernity, a selection of historic photos from the museum's collection. I liked the eclipse photos, with their tiny images of a crescent-shaped sun. Edgerton's strobe light photos are still revelatory & modern. I was charmed by Atget's lovely garden scenes.

I thought I might be able to booze it up in the galleries, but of course food & drink were restricted to the lobby area.

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