Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 7 May 2018
The more institutionally canonized of the two, perhaps, the new retrospective of south african photographer david goldblatt’s work presents a comprehensive overview of a life’s work. While there have been numerous retrospectives of the artist’s work before, the upcoming centre Pompidou one – his first solo exhibition in an art museum – is distinct for placing an emphasis on his personal archive. ‘david was very generous, opening all of the boxes and drawers of his archive to us ,’ says exhibition cur at or Karolin aziebinsk ale wandowska. spanning david’ s earliest teenage experiments with a camera from the mid 1940s to his acclaimed images of miners, afrikaner communities, and Johannesburg, through to his most recent work, the retrospective encompasses over 200 photographs, more than 100 previously unpublished documents, and seven short films.
The decision to fundamentally incorporate the artist’s own running commentary into the exhibition was an important one for Karolina: ‘anyone who has had the chance to meet david in person, and to hear him speaking about his photographs, knows how much his explanations change our understanding of a given photograph. It is part of the phenomenon of his work. and for me, it was crucial to share this experience with the viewers.’ What becomes evident is that david’s voice is very much about being succinct and particular. his photographs are clear and striking, and his (often lengthy) titles are direct and specific.
Through the combination of these elements, he is able to ground complex ideas in precise imagery. according to Karolina, this is precisely what allows for a body of work so unwaveringly focused on south africa to translate smoothly to international contexts. ‘david’s work is not about certainty, but about values which are not necessarily inherent only to south african history. It is specific and at the same time very universal work.’