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Hold Your Nose While You Read This

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By William Kentridge -- Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

What can you say about an artist who directed and co-designed the sets for an opera about a guy whose nose detaches from his face and – well – runs off?

Leora Maltz-Leca, a Library of Congress fellow of the Swann Foundation, which supports the arts of cartooning and caricature, will answer that question on Thursday, April 21 at noon in the Whittall Pavilion at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E. in Washington.  She’ll deliver a talk, “William Kentridge: ‘Stone-Age Drawing,’ Cartoon Logic and South Africa’s Process of Change.”

All kidding aside, Kentridge, who has delivered a fascinating body of artwork for many years – including drawings, sculpture, and videos that feature drawings re-drawn and filmed frame-by-frame or collages shot in similar fashion – is a hot property in the art world today. He doesn’t put all kidding aside: rarely has an artist had a more finely honed sense of the preposterous. But he also painfully explores the preposterousness that isn’t funny.

Political events over the years in South Africa have informed much of his outlook; and last year, in a labor of love with really cutting-edge results, he brought his concept, direction and sets for a rare production of Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose” to the Metropolitan Opera, to rave reviews.  He also had a major show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Thanks to the Met, MOMA and the Art21 blog for permission to link to their material.)

If you want to read the short story by the great Russian author Nikolai Gogol that kicked off all this nostril-flaring absurdity, it’s here.

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