Gaby Bianchi, Maroon-News Staff

Thursday, January 21 marked the opening of William Kentridge’s exhibit, “Universal Archive,” at the Picker Art Gallery in Dana Arts Center. The exhibit focuses on the metamorphic interpretation of ordinary objects, and is composed of over 75 linocut prints. While some linocuts feature clarity and realism, others of the same subject matter are portrayed through abstraction. Kentridge works in series; many of his works are composed of nine segments, emphasizing the progression of his creative process. 

The majority of the works displayed feature pages removed from non-archival sheets of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. The linocut prints themselves are printed in Indian ink. After creating the prints on linoleum, they are transferred onto the pages. Several of Kentridge’s works are massive in size, composed of several overlapping dictionary entries. Kentridge describes his artistic process by first printing single pages and later reassembling them to fit his vision.  

Senior Daniel Serrano and first-year Natalie Ramirez gave tours of the exhibit, focusing on their favorite selections at the opening event. Each individual presented background information and personal interpretations of artwork that resonated with them. Director of University Museums, Anja Chávez, as well as Curatorial Assistant Sarah Horowitz, presented to the approximately 30 individuals in attendance at the gallery’s opening ceremony. 

Kentridge’s work is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was born. Kentridge is an accomplished animator, and several of the prints exhibited mirror the fluidity and whimsical aspects of his work in film. To create his animation, Kentridge photographs his prints and charcoal drawings to

create a form of stop motion. His artistic style was inspired by first-hand experiences of the dissolution of apartheid. Through his artwork, Kentridge combines political struggles and personal experiences to create poetic visuals. The interconnected nature of different techniques and mediums exemplifies the versatility and capability of the artist.  

“I thought it was interesting that the artist chose to allow the  appearance of a singular subject to morph between prints. The way in which all of the repetitions were displayed together allowed for their differences to be highlighted, emphasizing their more subtle details,” first-year Ally Shahidi said. 

Kentridge incorporates humbling phrases into several of his works; this powerful imagery inspires deep thought and reflection. The prints on display highlight trees, cats, typewriters, coffee pots, birds and the human figure. Although some selections are abstract in nature, the emotion radiating off the work clearly mirrors the objects portrayed. This combination of media resonated deeply with the audience. For example, Kentridge clearly recreates the majestic stance of birds and the mischievous nature of a cat through his overlapping pages and full brushstrokes. 

A sculpture, “The Nose II (Walking)” is also displayed at the gallery. Two short documentary films, Drawing the Passing and The End of the Beginning are available for viewing. A third piece of film located at the gallery is Six Drawing Lessons. This piece is a recording of a lecture given by Kentridge at Harvard University in 2012. 

“I enjoyed the layout of how the exhibit progressed from machinery to birds and trees and culminated with human figures,” first-year John Bennett said.

“Universal Archive” will be on display until May 15.