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Maker: Kim Berman
born 1960, South Africa
Playing Cards of the Truth Commission, an Incomplete Deck
Date: 1999
Medium: Mezzotint, drypoint, and engraving on paper
Dimensions: Framed: 85.1 x 63.5 x 5.1 cm (33 1/2 x 25 x 2 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Diane and Charles L. Frankel
Geography: South Africa
Edition: 1/5
Signed: Kim Berman '99 lower left corner of each sheet
Object Number: 2000-7-1
Search Terms:
Object is not currently on exhibit

The topic of this suite of prints is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a popular and timely subject for South Africa's artists. In early 1996, two years after South Africa's first truly democratic elections, the commission began hearing testimonies from individuals who considered themselves agents, victims or survivors of apartheid. The overarching purpose of the process was to create a context in which the nation's tortured history might be reconciled. Berman's work identifies the guilty and bears witness to their crimes of word and action. The guilty figures emerge out of shadowy backgrounds, the faces often lit by a sickly green color. The words chronicle a tragic history of murder, torture, repression and complicity. The scratches, which mar the faces of the guilty, on the surface of the prints reveal Berman's anger at the system.

A suite of eighteen prints, variable edition of five with two artist's proofs; carborundum-grained mezzotints and drypoint, with engraving on plastic and surfaced rolled glazes. This is edition 1/5. Twelve of the prints are portraits of men, executed in black pigment, set against a dark background. Their images are intentionally disfigured with jagged and squiggly lines that are primarily white, grey and green in color. A letter or numbered black of spades appears in the upper right corner of each portrait, and its equivalent is written out in pencil (e.g, King of Spades) centered just below the edge of the portrait. Six of the prints identify the title, content and artist's credits. Each work includes script and printed text, in red, blue, tan and rose colors.

Charles Frankel, San Francisco, -- to 2000

Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, May 9- August 26, 2007; Fowler Museum at University of California, Los Angeles, October 14, 2007-February 17, 2008

Encounters with the Contemporary, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., January 7, 2001-January 6, 2002

Kreamer, Christine, Mary Nooter Roberts, Elizabeth Harney and Allyson Purpura. 2007. Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution; Milan: 5 Continents Editions, pp. 142, 211, no. 11.19a-b, 18.10a-b.

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