What does it mean to render the processes of making art—cutting, pasting, and projecting light—as a series of metaphors for how we think and how we live? And why would an artist embark on such an enterprise? This book considers how renowned artist William Kentridge spins the material operations of the studio into a web of politically astute and historically grounded metaphors, likening erasure to forgetting, comparing animation to the flux of history, and marshaling drawing as a form of nonlinear argument. Placing Kentridge’s visual vocabulary and unorthodox methods of production in the context of South Africa’s histories of change, Leora Maltz-Leca explores studio process in all of its metaphoric and philosophical dimensions.
“Leora Maltz-Leca has written a book that is a formal, social, and deeply philosophical art history. Basing her study on the metaphorical possibilities of process and material, as well as on the correct notion that a formal investigation can lead to understanding the social, political, and philosophical implications of the artist’s oeuvre, Maltz-Leca recovers William Kentridge’s specific South African origins while she also uses his work to explore the ripple effects of Euro-American modernism in the world. This imaginative and provocative text resituates the artist in new and surprising ways.”—Steven Nelson, Professor of African and African American Art, University of California, Los Angeles
“A tour de force: an erudite, compelling, and convincing work of contemporary art history. Leora Maltz-Leca’s work is particularly distinguished by her close and complex understanding of South Africa’s history, her feel for the very layered way that Kentridge works and speaks, and the flowing, nuanced way that she brings together those histories, works, and discourses. Her writing deserves particular mention, as it is formidably authoritative and elegant at once.”—Rachel Haidu, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Rochester
"With prose as lucid as it is erudite, Leora Maltz-Leca reveals the perceptual depth and conceptual intrigue of the oeuvre of William Kentridge, an artist of unique complexity. Featuring the trope of metaphor and expanding its powers, Maltz-Leca links Kentridge’s multimedia art to its extraordinary range of historical and philosophical reference. Her scholarly account assumes much of the character of Kentridge’s cognitive process, at once rigorous and poetic—as much a process of being, as she explains, as it is a process of art. She becomes the perfect match for Kentridge, her South African countryman. Beneath the gloss of his international fame, Maltz-Leca exposes the multifaceted core of a deeply politicized, postcolonial African."—Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, University of Texas at Austin