Monday, April 12, 2010

Museum Visit: MoMA: William Kentridge Animations

William Kentridge (born, South Africa, 1955) draws, paints, works in prints, collage, sculpture, and the performing arts. He is best known for his powerful drawings and unique animations. The Museum of Modern Art has mounted a magnificent exhibition of Kentridge's work. It includes his remarkable animations, charcoal drawings that "come to life." The MOMA shows the animations in darkened rooms, like theaters. They are intense and electric. The subject matter is not really for children. Too powerful and dark. But if you head for the room that shows videos of Kentridge drawing, you may be able to zip in and show your child how animation is done.

Kentridge mounts his video camera on a tripod. He positions the tripod in front of a wall covered with paper. Using heavy black charcoal, he draws an image of himself. He erases and redraws the image, leaving little traces of his changes on the paper. The figure appears to move. Even erasing becomes part of the animation.

In another video he draws the ocean, a big, dark gray mass. He "erases" curving white lines.
They look like waves. Lots of waves. He erases a large patch and creates white foam.

Kentridge's original drawings for the animations are displayed throughout the show. You can view several of Kentridge's animations at the MOMA Web site.

Kentridge's experience working in the theater inspired him to design the sets for "The Nose," an opera by Shostakovitch, based on a Gogol story. It had its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on March, 2010. Kentridge's large model of the sets for Mozart's the Magic Flute is displayed in one of the galleries. The music is performed and the opera set is animated at regular intervals during the day.

Artbus Project: Animation
Kentridge's animation technique, drawing, shooting, re-drawing, shooting, erasing, shooting, inspired this animation project. You and your child can try it at home. It is ambitious, but not really that difficult. It takes patience, but after working for a few minutes, you will have an animation of your child drawing.

Use a small "point-and-shoot" camera. Set it on "video." Mount your camera on a tripod. Try not to move the camera. Position a large sheet of paper on the wall in front of the camera. You and your child will be the artists. Explain that you will start the video when you start drawing and stop the video when you stop drawing. Make starting and stopping a counting game. Ten-second shots would be perfect. Use big magic markers, paint, pastels, or bright crayons. Start with some simple moves. Circles? One. Two. three? Stop. Shoot. Dots. Stop and shoot several times as you add more dots. Lines? Tear some papers and glue them to the paper. After 2 or 3 minutes, stop work and view the video. It will amaze you.

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