David Krut Projects, New York, is pleased to present an exhibition of William Kentridge's recent series of
linocuts, Universal Archive. These linocuts began as a series of small ink drawings on pages of old
dictionaries, made using both old and new paintbrushes. They were created in a state described by
Kentridge as “productive procrastination,” during the period when he was writing the text that would
become the Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard University in early 2012. The images are made up of
both solid and very fine lines, with an unconstrained virtuosity of mark-making. The ink drawings were
initially attached to linoleum plates and painstakingly carved by the DKW printmakers and the artist’s
studio assistants. As the project expanded, the images were photo-transferred to linoleum plates in order
to preserve the original drawings. The images have been printed onto pages from various books, including
early copies of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
As a result of the meticulous mechanical translation of a gestural mark, the linocuts push the boundaries
of the characteristics traditionally achieved by the medium. The identical replication of the artist’s free
brush mark in the medium of linocut makes for unexpected nuance in mark, in contrast with the heavier
mark usually associated with this printing method. Furthermore, the paper of the nonarchival old book
pages resists the ink, which creates an appealing glossy glow on the surface of the paper.
Many of the images are recurring themes in Kentridge’s art and stage productions: cats, trees, coffee pots,
nude figures. While some images are obvious, others dissolve into abstracted forms suggestive of
Japanese Ukiyo-e painting. The parallel and displaced relationships that emerge between the image and
the text on the pages relate to Kentridge’s inherent mistrust of certainty in creative processes. This
becomes part of a project of unraveling master texts, here questioning ideas of knowledge production and
the construction of meaning. Aside from the numerous individual images created, there are prints
assembled from pieces: cats torn from four sheets, a large tree created from 15 sheets. Groups of prints
featuring combinations of individual images – twelve coffee pots, six birds and nine trees – show the
artist’s progressive deconstruction of figurative images into abstract collections of lines, which nonetheless
remain suggestive of the original form. This movement from figuration to abstraction and back, along with
the works’ close relationship to Kentridge’s stage productions, suggests that this body of work holds an
intriguing place in Kentridge’s oeuvre on the edge of animation and printmaking.
For more information please contact Hannah@davidkrut.com.