Art out of Apartheid

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“Zeno at 4am” (9 prints on 1 sheet) by artist William Kentridge

Etching and sugarlift, 2000

What better way to deal with the legacy of Apartheid in South Africa than in black and white?

Each year Cole Rogers and Carla McGrath put on an international show of prints at Highpoint Center for Printmaking. The goal is to expose local printers and art lovers to the aesthetic of another culture, but always using the same medium. Past shows have featured works from Pakistan, Poland, Australia, Scotland, Mexico, and Japan. This spring, Highpoint’s galleries are filled with the prints of a group of artists in South Africa, who all worked in the David Krut print workshop.

Master Printer Cole Rogers says these prints stand out from other shows:

For me a sense of narrative is very strong in these works. Quite a few of them were in a series. It is less colorful than many of the other shows, but the use of the human figure is a strong theme.

Artistic Director Carla McGrath is quick to continue:

And that’s something that a lot of visitors have commented on. They enjoy seeing the human figure, and these days are surprised to see it as the subject of contemporary prints. And a lot of the imagery deals with Apartheid, either from a personal perspective, to a much broader social perspective.

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“The Rape of Africa” by Diane Victor

Drypoint, 2009

While each of the artists have distinct styles, certain themes emerge quickly: images of being stifled, unable to communicate, or constricted, along with deep feelings of shame, loss and trauma. Combined, the images are a window on a society trying to pick up the pieces while it simultaneously looks to understand its past.

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“The Resurrection Series 2/6″ by Ryan Arenson

Linocut, 2008

One of the artists featured in the collection is renaissance man William Kentridge. His prints, filled with both movement and tragically absurd imagery hint at his other talents – film, theater and opera. Currently a retrospective of his artwork is up at the MOMA in New York. Included in the Highpoint exhibition are works Kentridge created for the staging and design of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Nose” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera this past March.

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“L’inesorabile Avanzata: Massacre of the Innocents” (1 of 5 in a series)

by William Kentridge

Aquatint, drypoint and engraving, 2007

On April 16th, South African print master Jillian Ross will speak at Highpoint about the exhibition, and some of the cultural references in the imagery that might be lost on a local audience.

Aside from the black and white, there is one color that makes a stark appearance in this show: red. It’s a disturbing reminder of the legacy of violence in South Africa, but also a splash of life and passion that hints at a return to a full sprectrum of color in the future.

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