William Kentridge at MoMA

After William Kentridge graduated from art school in South Africa, he decided to study theatre and mime in Paris, but “was fortunate to discover that [he] was a bad actor…and was reduced to an artist.” His hopes of acting may not have panned out, but it’s no wonder that performance is such a big part of his work as the latest exhibition at the MoMA highlights. “Five Themes” surveys the last three decades of Kentridge’s work, which includes print, books, collage, drawing, sculpture, animation and performance art. The themes tend to revolve around political movements like the first South African democratic election in 1994 to projects like “The Nose,” Kentridge’s most recent undertaking.

Based on the 1837 absurdist short story by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose” follows “the travails of a pompous Russian bureaucrat who wakes one day to find his nose has escaped his face and assumed greater clout than he.” It’s the inspiration for Kentridge’s staging of the Shostakovich opera of the same name that will premiere at the Metropolitan later this week, and also for his upcoming performance “I am not me, the horse is not mine,” which he originally performed at the 2008 Sydney Biennale.

“I am not me, the horse is not mine” at 7pm, this Thursday, March 4 at MoMA. “Five Themes” is runs until May 17, 2010.