Tseng Kwong Chi Bill T. Jones Body Painting with Keith Haring, 1983, Silver gelatin selenium-toned print Muna Tseng Dance Projects/Estate of Tseng Kwong Chi and courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery, photograph by Tseng Kwong Chi ©1983 Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. New York Body drawing by Keith Haring © 1983 Estate of Keith Haring, New York.
|Juan Capistran, The Breaks, 2000, Inkjet print, 40 x 40 inches, Collection of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, The Altoids Curiously Strong Collection, gift of Altoids.
|Trisha Brown, Untitled, 2007 Charcoal, pastel on paper Framed: 55 ½ x 64 inches, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund. Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College.
|Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.065), early 1960s Crocheted copper and brass wire 94 x 17 (diameter) inches, Anonymous Collection. Photo: Laurence Cuneo.
“Dance/Draw,” the fascinating exhibition on view through Jan. 16, 2012 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), threads an illuminating path through the complex cacophony of art over the past five decades.
The exhibition traces the journey of the line and the connections between visual art and dance since the 1960s through sculpture, dance, photography, video, drawings and performances. In the assembled works, drawing emerges as a sort of performance. And dance becomes a kind of drawing, etching arcs and lines in space.
Coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the museum, “Dance/Draw” is the first exhibition organized by ICA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth. She brings together works by some 50 dancers and visual artists, and with her curatorial colleagues introduces each with an essay in the exhibition’s elegant catalog.
One of Molesworth’s muses is choreographer and dancer Trisha Brown, who in the ’60s began exploring the affinities and blurring the boundaries between visual arts and dance. The subject of a 2002 exhibition at the Addison Gallery of American Art, “Trisha Brown: Dance and Art in Dialogue 1961-2001,” Brown is here represented in videos, photographs, a live dance installation and her own drawings. On Nov. 11-13, the ICA will host performances by the Trisha Brown Company, which she founded 41 years ago.
In the first gallery, a section entitled “More Than Just the Hand” presents works that are not hand-drawn illustrations, but instead, multimedia renderings of moments as well as lines and textures.
Trisha Brown dipped her toes in charcoal to draw the calligraphic “Untitled” (2007), an image that is both a record of an event and a work of art.
In William Anastasi’s ink and graphite drawings, wobbly lines nest like metal filings drawn to a magnet. He composed them in a sort of performance, with his eyes shut, as he rode the subway en route to his weekly chess games with revolutionary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, who made chance and change subjects of dance.
David Hammons repeatedly bounced a basketball coated with “Harlem earth” to fashion “Basketball Drawing” (2001). Lebanese artist Mona Hatoum composed her quartet of “Hair Drawings” by arranging black strands on handmade ivory paper. In his wry “Snail Drawings,” Daniel Ranelli photographed a group of snails he placed in the sand in tidy formations and then showed them fanned out in their own constellations.
Crafted by pioneering composer and musician John Cage, Cunningham’s partner in art and life, is a pair of handmade papers made of herbs and flowers entitled “Wild Edible Drawings”(1990). Bahamian Janine Antoni used her mascara-laden eyelashes to create the delicate lines that fill her drawing “Butterfly Kisses” (1996-99).
The section entitled “The Line in Space” presents works that extend the line beyond the frame. These three-dimensional structures invite interaction, provoking the viewer to examine them from different angles. Artful lighting casts shadows through the nested basketry of Ruth Asawa, vertical spirals of crocheted metallic wire. Fred Sandback’s sculptural study suspends three strands of acrylic yarn from the ceiling to the floor. Evoking the strings of a musical instrument, the blue, red and yellow yarns and their shadows seem to carve the air into columns and panes.
As mid-century minimalists focused on the fundamentals, the grid emerged from its behind-the-scenes status as a compositional tool. Brown adopts the grid in the gallery-sized installation, “Floor of the Forest” (1970). Like a giant net, its sloping ropes hold assorted used clothing and, at predetermined times (Thursday evenings and weekend afternoons) also dangle a pair of her dancers, who silently crawl among the ropes and poke through the jackets and sweaters as if they are cocoons.
As Brown and her contemporaries playfully and often with great beauty investigated the building blocks of their art form, they moved dance off the stage onto plazas, the sides of buildings, roofs and mountaintops. The section entitled “Dancing” renders their pioneering experiments through photographs, films and drawings.
A wall-sized video projection shows an iconic performance by Yvonne Rainer, along with Brown a founding member of the seminal Greenwich Village Judson Dance Theater. Wearing a black top and pants, she dances her mesmerizing “Trio A” (1978). Debuted in the ’60s, her flowing, narrative-free study of pure movement launched a thousand classes in modern dance.
In another large video, choreographer William Forsysthe conducts a droll demonstration of his craft in the soberly named “Lectures from Improvisation Technologies” (2011). As he maneuvers his body to show each element in a dance composition, animated lines track his movements, making visible the implicit 3-D geometry of dance.
Born in Ghana and now living in London and New York, Senam Okudzeto combines comedy, art history and social commentary in her video and installation, “The Dialectic of Jubilation; Afro Funk Lessons” (2002-05). Partly a tribute to African American artist Adrian Piper, who instructed a white audience in her video “Funk Lessons” (1983), Okudzeto shows herself teaching a group of Europeans how to dance to the Afrobeat music of Nigerian Fela Kuti.
In “The Breaks” (2000), a 5x5 grid of freeze-frame photographs, Mexican artist Juan Capistran break-dances in an art gallery on a square of lead — a floor sculpture by the archetypal minimalist Carl Andre.
The fourth section, “Drawing,” looks at the metamorphosis of figure drawing through media as varied as 3-D digital imaging, neon and body paint.
With a nod to tradition, the works include Fiona Banner’s painstakingly hand-drawn covers of books designed to teach amateurs the essentials of life drawing. Nearby, another affectionate and humorous installation introduces the Friends of the Fine Arts (FFARTS). The artists’ collective gathers periodically for a “life drawing circle” that brings a contemporary skill-sharing ethos to the Beaux Arts practice of drawing nude models. Members don the poses and props of a particular period — say Old Testament stories — and swap roles as curators and models.
Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones is the subject of two works. In photographs by Tseng Kwong Chi, he poses covered head to toe with white geometric patterns that artist Keith Haring has painted on his body. A mesmerizing 3-D projection by the OpenEnded Group, “After Ghostcatching” (1999), shows Jones in shimmering afterimages. As he dances, his figure dissolves into meandering ribbons of color.
The exhibition will reward repeated visits. Among the works that will draw you back is Sadie Benning’s 29-minute animation, “Play Pause” (2006). Her gouache drawings spin across two screens to Solveig Nelson’s pulsing sound track. Benning’s raw and tender cartoons take the viewer on a stroll through a teeming city, from its discos and soccer games to parks and storefronts. Her video is an urban rhapsody in the tradition of “Manhatta,” a 1920 silent film by photographers Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler. Their visual paean to the energy and grandeur of a young Manhattan has a worthy successor in “Play Pause.” With hints of post-9/11 tension (an occasional surveillance-camera view), Benning’s animation celebrates the persistent variety and verve of city life.
And with variety and verve, Molesworth’s exhibition honors generations of artists whose ephemeral subject is the human body in motion.
The impulse to order one's world is particularly urgent to an artist. Charles LeDray does just that, one stitch at a time.
Instead of relying on ready-made objects or enlisting cadres of assistants to fabricate his designs, New York-based LeDray, 50, sews, hooks, casts, binds, throws, glazes, carves and constructs his works himself. The objects number in the thousands and most are less than two inches high - but they have monumental expressive power.
Moral energy as well as a profound work ethic infuses the magnificent exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston until Oct. 17. The 50 installations and sculptures on view in nine galleries show the power of one person's seemingly humble activity - domestic handiwork - to repair and order a chaotic world. More »
When Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, news of the federal government's ineptitude was driven home by images of stranded families waving from rooftops. The following year, the Classical Theatre of Harlem staged an acclaimed, Katrina-inspired production of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" in a swimming pool on a Manhattan rooftop.
In 2007, the performance's director, Classical co-founder Chris McElroen, brought the production to New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Performed on the steps of a flooded house, the five nights of free performances drew thousands of people, including many who had lost loved ones and homes in the hurricane and its ill-managed aftermath.
Now on tour with their production, McElroen and his company staged two performances of "Waiting for Godot" last weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (ICA). The inventive production uses Beckett's stage directions as a springboard for a fresh rendering of the play. Like a jazz improvisation, it finds new, moving currents in a timeless classic - and mines its urgency. More »
Horizons are irresistible motifs in photographs and paintings. These meeting places of earth and sky inspire longing and hope and invite contemplation of what is beyond our known and familiar world. Horizons are a frequent presence in the photographs of Catherine Opie that are on view through Sept. 5 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA).
Entitled "Catherine Opie: Empty and Full" and organized by ICA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth, the exhibition presents 45 images made between 2006 and 2010 by this prominent American photographer. They may seem to have little in common: One set of images documents her 10-day journey east across the Pacific on a container ship from Busan, Korea, to Long Beach, Calif. in 2009 through photographs of each day's sunrise and sunset. Other photographs form an odyssey through America's fractious social landscape.
Together, they show America both in its outer reach across oceans and inner cacophony. More »