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Kentridge's Tapestries on show

- By Wits University

The Wits Art Museum is proud to announce the exhibition, William Kentridge: Tapestries – A Collaboration with Stephens Tapestry Studio.

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) will be showing an extraordinary collection of tapestries, created in conjunction with Marguerite Stephens’s weaving studio, plus associated works. The WAM exhibition is one of three displays of Kentridge’s work in three major art venues in Johannesburg this year.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery will be hosting The Refusal of Time, the installation first shown at Documenta in 2012, while the Goodman Gallery will be exhibiting a series of landscape drawings made on the pages of a 1906 ledger from East Rand Proprietary Mines. 

Stephens and Kentridge have been working together on tapestries for the past 24 years. About 40 tapestries have emerged from this longstanding collaboration between the two studios, in which Stephens translates and upscales the artist’s collage drawings for the very different materials and techniques of tapestry-making. The collaged drawings often use different and difficult images and materials as a challenge to the weaving studio. 

Tapestry weaving is both an ancient and a modern technology. It was practiced in the great Flemish and French tapestry workshops of the 15th and 16th Century. But there is a contemporary sensibility in the transformation of an image into a series of pixilated decisions: the 2000 threads of the warp, the many thousands of thread of the weft.

The coherent final image is the result of many specific decisions. A tapestry also relates in scale to a mural. But these are removable murals, and in this way relate to projections too. So the artist thinks of these sometimes as fixing the frames of a projection in the taut strings of the weaving.

Each tapestry is made by five or six weavers sitting in a row along the loom. The challenges presented by Kentridge’s designs have boosted the development of the skills of the weavers over the years.

William Kentridge is particularly happy to be showing the tapestries at WAM, which through its remarkable collection of African art has an ongoing project of showing the indeterminate and at times non-existent boundaries between artisan, craft and art.

Dedicated exhibitions of tapestries created by Kentridge and Stephens have been shown in Philadelphia, Spain, and Capodimonte. This is however the first time that they can be seen in Johannesburg as an extensive group. The exhibition will include approximately 20 tapestries, and some related sculptures, drawings as well as film footage of the weaving process.

The William Kentridge: Tapestries – A Collaboration with Stephens Tapestry Studio exhibition at WAM opens on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 and will be on view until  Sunday, 14 December 2014.

The exhibition can be viewed during the Wits Art Museum opening hours. Entrance to the museum is free, however donations are always welcome. WAM opening hours: Wednesdays to Sundays 10h00 – 16h00.

For further information or high res images, please contact Jessica.Foli@wits.ac.za or (011) 717-1365.

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