On View March 8 through April 30, 2023
Out of Africa: Selections from the Kramlich Collection Highlights Rarely Exhibited Works from Bay Area Collectors
Exhibition Opens in Conjunction with Video Art Class and William Kentridge Residency at UC Berkeley
(Berkeley, CA) February 6, 2023—A new exhibition of video art and still photography curated by BAMPFA Executive Director Julie Rodrigues Widholm with support from Associate Curator Elaine Yau will open at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive this spring, focusing on the theme of Africa as a site of colonial extraction and exploitation. Drawn primarily from the holdings of the Bay Area art collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich, Out of Africa: Selections from the Kramlich Collection will showcase rarely seen works from this collection by Doug Aitken, Steve McQueen, Richard Mosse, and William Kentridge—the latter of whom will visit UC Berkeley this spring for a campus-wide residency that includes BAMPFA. The exhibition will align with a UC Berkeley course featuring guest speakers on the topic of video art, which will be held at the museum and open to the public.
Opening with an evocative photography triptych by Carrie Mae Weems from BAMPFA’s own collection that depicts a premodern trading post in Mali, Out of Africa explores how contemporary artists address the extraction of natural, human, and economic resources from the African continent. The majority of the gallery space will be devoted to two moving image installations: the seventeen-minute video diamond sea (1997) by Aitken, which captures his experience visiting one of the world’s largest diamond mines in the Namib Desert of southwestern Africa; and Other Faces (2011) by Kentridge, which visualizes the artist’s reflections on race and historical memory in his native South Africa. Aitken’s installation was filmed on digital video, while Other Faces typifies Kentridge’s signature practice of creating animated films from hand-drawn charcoal illustrations.
Also included in the exhibition is a work by McQueen, the British filmmaker and artist whose practice explores the unresolved historical trauma of slavery and racial violence in the United States. Lynching Tree (1969) is a haunting photograph of its titular subject taken by the artist in New Orleans during production of his film 12 Years a Slave. The exhibition will also feature Love Is The Drug (2012) by Mosse, a photograph of an industrially ravaged landscape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mosse captured the image with Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued film stock that distorts the colors of the natural world into psychedelic reds and blues—creating a powerfully surreal visual metaphor for the destructive incursion of human forces into Africa’s natural environment.
With the exception of the Weems triptych, all works in the exhibition are drawn from the collection of Pamela and Richard Kramlich, who have spent nearly four decades assembling one of the world’s preeminent private collections of media art. The Kramlich Collection encompasses more than two hundred film, video, and slide installations, as well as more than 250 significant works of photography, sculpture, painting, and drawing. The exhibition at BAMPFA continues the Kramlichs’ practice of partnering with major arts organizations on loans and public programming drawn from their collection, in order to advance the inclusion of “new media” art in the broader narrative of contemporary art history.
The inclusion of Kentridge’s Other Faces in the exhibition coincides with the artist’s residency at UC Berkeley in March, co-organized by BAMPFA in partnership with Cal Performances and the Townsend Center for the Humanities. An internationally distinguished artist whose work spans multiple disciplines, Kentridge will also be the subject of a film retrospective at BAMPFA, which will screen many of his short films and filmed operas in the Barbro Osher Theater. Kentridge’s residency will also include the US premiere of his latest production, SYBIL, presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall on March 17-19.
Kentridge is one of multiple guests who will appear in a series of public conversations at BAMPFA this season in conjunction with Out of Africa, in the UC Berkeley course “Video Art in Context” co-taught by professors Shannon Jackson and Greg Niemeyer. Throughout the spring semester, visitors to the museum are invited to hear from a roster of artists, curators, designers, and critics in the Osher Theater, who will explore the creative and technological dimensions of video art—a relatively young medium that has become ever more central to contemporary art discourse in our increasingly digital era. In addition to Kentridge, participants in the series include Judith Butler, Danielle Dean, Rudolph Frieling, Jeffrey Gibson, Lynn Hershman Leeson, as well as BAMPFA’s executive director Julie Rodrigues Widholm and film curators Susan Oxtoby and Kate MacKay. Programs are included with gallery admission and will take place at noon on most Thursdays in March and April; visit bampfa.org for the current schedule.
“It’s a privilege to partner with our friends at the Kramlich Collection on an exhibition that fulfills one of my core goals as director of this museum: to use art and film as a means of engaging with the most pressing concerns of our time, in this case the contemporary humanitarian, political, and environmental implications of extractive colonialism on the African continent,” said Widholm. “The works assembled for this exhibition powerfully remind us that the the capitalist extraction of labor and resources in Africa is an ongoing moral crisis, one that we can trace all the way from the historical slave trade alluded to in Steve McQueen’s Lynching Tree to the present-day exploitation of natural resources such as diamonds in the Namib desert or cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo highlighted by Doug Aitken and Richard Mosse’s work, respectively.”