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The Underground Museum’s secrecy lends itself to this exhibition of film works by William Kentridge—an artist who regularly interweaves political and social realities, narrative and, here, the mundanity of the artist toiling alone in his studio. In 7 Fragments for George Méliès (2003), we see Kentridge in a constant progress of erasure and creation, drawing himself into the image in an endless loop (Invisible Mending) and undoing smears of black paint in what appears to be forward motion (Tabula Rasa I).
Kentridge throughout reenacts primary reversals—white/black, day/night—over and over, drawing an obvious parallel between himself and the ants in Day for Night (2003), consistently working in concert to recreate and dismantle their own colonies. The ants, white figures traversing a black surface, build along prescribed lines, swarming periodically in a process of contraction and dispersal.
Time is as smudgy here as Kentridge’s charcoals. Drawings become clearer as Kentridge wipes his hands over them in Journey to the Moon (2003), like that Enigma video where the unicorn runs backwards. Particularly in 7 Fragments for George Méliès, enacted backwards movements run backwards so that they appear to move forward with oily elasticity.
As the work changes, Kentridge suggests narratives beyond our control, as well as the struggle of memory to retain itself by way of processes of erasure and recurrence. The Underground Museum’s brick shows through under several of the projections, adding another layer of texture, and a perhaps unintended acknowledgment of place.
William Kentridge: Journey to the Moon runs June 25–November 15, 2015 at The Underground Museum (3508 W Washington Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90018) in conjunction with MOCA (250 S Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012)