William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
Warthog and necklace signed and dated 'KENTRIDGE 85' (lower right) charcoal heightened with white chalk and gold paint 90 x 62.5cm (35 7/16 x 24 5/8in).
Known for his evocative charcoal drawings their lines drawn, (imperfectly) erased and redrawn such that the traces of the past always haunt the present William Kentridge is arguably South Africa's foremost contemporary artist. The present lot, Warthog and necklace, though not formally part of Kentridge's famous 1985 triptych The Boating Party, is nonetheless part of its narrative, and plays out in the same space. Referencing the famous Impressionist work Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Kentridge's triptych depicts a scene of aristocratic leisure at odds with the utter turmoil breaking out in the surrounding environment: a strong comment on the blithe inattention of privileged white citizens to the violence and inequity raging around them during apartheid.
In the first panel of the triptych, a woman with a particularly haughty expression clasps a warthog like a lapdog, but in the third the warthog has been cut up and served as jelly. Meanwhile, a burning tyre a grotesque subversion of a birthday cake falls, as in the present lot, referencing what Colin Richards has called "the most significant icon of the harrowing decade of the 1980s". Indeed, "the burning tyre associated with necklacing branded South Africa's liberation struggle into the consciousness of millions".
Making this work even more interesting is its link to a brief period in Kentridge's life (a few months in 1985) during which he worked as an editorial cartoonist for the Weekly Mail newspaper. As Sean O'Toole records, at the very edge of many of Kentridge's cartoons particularly those that lampooned the "bored haute bourgeoisie in scratchy lines and moody expressionist tones" the artist included a small warthog. Ever the erudite allusionist, Kentridge, who used the artist credit "PH Chere" in his cartoons, was referencing the French for warthog: phacochère.
Kentridge recalls the difficulty he experienced as a cartoonist in using pen and ink, which demanded a certainty, speed and fluidity of line which did not suit his mode of thought and working. "The thing with charcoal," says Kentridge, "is you can find the form; you keep adjusting it, you rub it out, you redraw it". This thinking and rethinking, drawing and redrawing, in the process of embodying a complex idea, would become the foundation of Kentridge's craft.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. O'Toole, 'Cartooning No Fun for Kentridge', Mail & Guardian, (25 February 2011) C. Richards, 'Aftermath: Value and Violence in Contemporary South African Art'. Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity, (Durham, 2008), p.252 S. Williamson, Resistance Art in South Africa, (Cape Town, 2004) p. 30