A few years ago, a brass band marched into a deserted and desolate landscape playing melancholy music, reminiscent of funeral processions in Mexico or South Africa, taking over the whole upper gallery of the Marion Goodman Gallery in Soho, London, in “More Sweetly Play the Dance“.
The maverick South African artist William Kentridge (born 1955) is back again in London, with a much larger and animated exhibition that takes over the main gallery spaces in the Whitechapel Gallery with a series of six different installations where music, video, animation and drama reinforce themes of revolution, exile and scientific advancement. Kentridge uses the vast range of techniques available to 21st century artists including sculpture, tapestry, video and animation. Even the central staircase has been reinvented in his style. This exhibition reinforces his reputation as a leading artist who takes advantage of all the technologies available in the 21st century to create imaginative and immersive experiences.
With its distinctive arts and crafts façade designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, the Whitechapel Gallery extended into the adjacent former library buildings in 2009 and now has a series of inter-connected display spaces that allows the Gallery to run different exhibitions that use the display areas in different ways. While William Kentridge has filled the main galleries with his exhibition, there is another installation downstairs and three smaller exhibitions upstairs. Complimenting Kentridge’s installations and keeping up to date with modern technology - in this case rotating mobile phones surrounded by sculptures - is Berlin artist Alicja Kwade’s “Medium Median” while the last exhibition from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection of modern and contemporary Arab art has an architectural theme with Iman Issa’s shimmering “Proposal for a Crystal Building” for Tahrir Square in Cairo, while Jumana Manna adapts a limestone porch from disputed territories in East Jerusalem, re-contextualising it in the gallery and Marwa Arsanios’s installation “All About Acapulco” reflects on the changing fortunes of the 1950’s resort building on the edge of Beirut, once the centre of a luxury resort, now altered and compromised.