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Acclaimed Artist Kentridge Bringing “Procession of History” to Emerson Urban Arts

Internationally acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge is bringing a selection from his most recent body of work, Triumphs and Laments, to the Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery on Thursday, February 15.

The original public art piece, a 550-meter-long frieze along the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, “presents figures from a broad sweep of Italian history in a grand procession to represent the progress and foibles of human endeavor,” said Joseph Ketner, Emerson’s Henry and Lois Foster Chair in Contemporary Art and director of the Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery.

Created by “reverse graffiti” from the dirt on the river’s embankment wall, the figures in the frieze will eventually blend into the background with the addition of new layers of pollution.

In considering the history of the “Eternal City,” Kentridge has tried “to capture the transient: to bear witness to what is altered and dissolved over time.”

The Emerson Urban Arts exhibit will include the complete set of aquatint etchings and woodcuts used in the frieze, two long maquettes that diagram the processional, a set of monumental stencils, and a video showing the opening performance in Rome.

An excerpt from Triumps and Laments depicting a 1937 Tiber flood. 

In addition, Kentridge has collaborated with Artist Proof Studio and David Krut Projects in Johannesburg to produce eight monumental prints based on Triumphs and Laments, which will be shown together for the first time at the Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery. Together, the prints bring the contemporary relevance of the frieze’s historical figures to the fore, with dominant themes of migration and displacement.

Kentridge, son of noted anti-apartheid lawyers, lives and works in Johannesburg. His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

Triumphs and Laments, co-curated at the Media Art Gallery by Ketner and Pamela Allara, associate professor emerita at Brandeis University, runs through Saturday, April 14. An opening reception will be held Wednesday, February 14, 5:00–7:00 pm, at the gallery.




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