A Full Day: Printshops, Studios, and Museums

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The community of arts in Johannesburg started to piece together today as we delved deeper into art making spaces. Our first visit was at the David Krut project space at Arts on Main. Here, we were guided through the printshop by master printer Jillian. She introduced us to the collaborative process that occurs in a printshop. Preparing a print, unlike what most people think, takes time and great technical skills. Jillian stressed the importance of mark-making by the artist during the print process, which is why she chooses not to make photographic prints in the studio.

IMG_2054Throughout the space there were prints on display, including works by William Kentridge, Diane Victor, Stephen Hobbs and Maja Maljevic. The time spent here helped me appreciate the labour and process that goes into making prints. Jillian also
offered insight into the “world” of printmaking. This included the challenges of building printshop and educating younger people to get to practice printmaking. In our discussions, it seemed that there is a lack of teaching of throughout universities, including those in South Africa. It was not even due to the lack of equipment, but to the lack of teachers and enthusiasm for the practice. There, we also met students who study at RISD and Wits University, who came to David Krut project to study printmaking. The space acted as a communal space to keep the medium alive.

Afterwards, we had an impromptu visit to the Studio of William Kentridge. Yes, THE William Kentridge! His space was right next door to the David Krut project printshop. The studio was massive and held large scale sculptures and installations. His studio assistant showed us around. We saw early prototypes for new works that involved kinetic sculptures with large megaphones, that would (when finished) read out loud Trotsky’s texts. Many of the works here demonstrate his background and continued interest in theatre. I found it extremely fascinating to learn that there are so many dimension to his work, especially after learning about his prints at David Krut. The many props we saw were an extension of his playful, witty and dark sense of humor in storytelling, and also a way for him to integrate this theatre sets into the market.

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After quickly popping by iwasshot in Johannesburg, a project that aimed to promote photography in the township youth, we made a visit (also surprise) to Stephen Hobbs’ studio. Hobbes is interested in the “razzle dazzle,” which was actually a camouflage technique in the second World War. He has applied this concept to large installation works that bring together light projections, mirrors, and architecture. He emphasized the power of failed works, especially in relationship to buildings. I found that this seemed to be extremely relevant to the commercial buildings he is decorating – large high-end condominiums in once run down neighborhoods. Hobbes furthers his interest in art in the expanded field, by organizing public art projects with his studio-mate  and collaborator Marcus Neustetter in an organization called The Trinity Session.

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After lunch, we headed down to the Wits Art Museum for a tour with special projects curator, Fiona. Fiona is not just a curator, but someone who has done a little bit of everything for the museum, including business plan writing, fundraising, collections manager, and even art conservator. She described the start of the museum as a room full of curators trying to get money to build a building. It sounds crazy, but it happened. She gave a great tour of the two exhibitions up, one by Penny Seville and the other by Peter Shülz.

IMG_2058We headed back to Arts on Main, stopping to see more prints at Kruts project and then to see the Museum of African Design. The Museum of African Design is interesting because it is just an open warehouse space. It feels much more DIY with its open back and experimental project space. Although it is new, it seems to be very promising. I was most fascinated by the four-channel video installation, which was a stop motion of a performance, where a man was in a blue lit body suit, juxtaposed with women getting their hair braided. The video was celebratory to street style and evening gatherings

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