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Dance meets art at Loretta Howard Gallery

Yvonne Rainer’s work Trio A (1966), is one of the most enchanting dance pieces of dance history that paved the way to contemporary and postmodern dance practices. It is an interesting choreographic work, not least because it is exhilarating from pure performance and performer points of view. How many times do contemporary performers get immersed in new projects, where choreographers and directors inquire effortless, non-virtuous task-oriented movements and behavior to use them as backbones for their pieces. This in fact is not so easy to accomplish at all. As what performer goes through is not so much about ‘performing’ from a merely audience seduction point of view, but follows more a neutral way of not-doing too much. This might sound complicated, but makes all sense when in dance the performers start tapping the space, letting their bodies organize the way through the space. The inheritance of this type of movement in dance, a meticulous way of appearing happens sometimes simultaneously in conjunction to things and objects. In sculptural and spatial terms, the dancer is like a living and moving human sculpture. But more than that, the art of dancing in this case is shaped also around imaginary objects, or spatial lines that cut through the architecture of space. In Trio A, it seems that the space and objects were a great source of inspiration for Rainer, acting as inner elements, and shaping the movement sequences. There are, of course, noticeable tricky movements and balancing included in the work, even when the dancer (herself in the original Trio A, which was part of a larger work The Mind Is a Muscle) would not make a full sequence of complicated turns, for example. In 1966, Trio A changed the dance scene by examining the possibilities of human movement. Rainer had learned from Merce Cunningham and John Cage to have different approach to the her audience or spectators in general. She also started to experiment with film using the same methods as in choreography.

When watching the composition of Trio A evolve on the video, it comes to mind that perhaps the biggest challenge is to maintain a calm steady movement flow. The work became a classic not only because it still makes powerful statements of what a composition and a performance is about; but stating a strong performer making the composition. It changed so much in the Western dance history.

Dance does not always get noticed among contemporary art forms, or is quite rarely placed in the art history like visual arts. When it appears to be paired together with and being a component of the visual arts as a performance art, or in conjunction of musical composition, it gets a different approach. The so-called post-modern dance era brought in new curiosities in terms of artistic collaborations that stretched beyond boundaries of different art forms and genres.

Loretta Howard Gallery opens on September 10 with a new exhibition entitled “Where Sculpture and Dance Meet: Minimalism from 1961 to 1979.” The gallery curates annually an historical exhibition, and this truly interesting archival exploration showcases videos of historic performances and sculptures associated with minimalism both in art and dance. The exhibit is timely as it is doing homage to ideas that are still in a dialogue setting current trends in visual arts and performance. The exhibition shows that choreographers and sculptors, for instance, used methods of composition that were known as subjective. Yvonne Rainer belongs to these artists who brought minimalism to dance. She did not eventually wish to include her Trio A showing into the gallery exhibition, but her historic rehearsal recording from Conneticut with a group of performers works as a good intro to her style.

In the exhibit, there is also a video of sculptor Robert Morris’ work,  in which a masked male performer performs with a sculpture created by Morris. In the 1960s, he built his early sculptures in Yoko Ono’s loft that also involved unique performance elements. Choreographer Simone Forti’s archival video of her piece Slantboard (1961), is an important addition to the exhibition. The work includes a platform in its center for performers to attach to and play with. The exhibit culminates around a piece Dance created by Lucinda Childs (original from 1979). The video is a double performance in a sense that Childs’ company performs in the background video when the Dance is recreated for stage. The choreography gathers an architectural sculpture from Sol LeWitt around it. Childs collaborated with the artist in set designs, and used music from composer Philip Glass.

Andy Warhol’s installation of helium filled pillows, Silver Clouds, adds an interesting story to the exhibition. Warhol created the pillows which then functioned as a set in Merce Cunningham’s dance work Rainforest (1968). Performers in this choreography encountered the clouds when they were floating across the stage. Cunningham often explored dancers and objects to create ‘random’ encounters, so it is great that the exhibition’s shows a performance video and the sets in the gallery space to make the central point come across.

In addition to the artists and collaborations mentioned, Loretta Howard Gallery displays Trisha Brown’s video Group Primary Accumulation (1973) as part of this archival display. The choreography explored altered understanding of the beauty and power with simple repetitive movements. Brown used principles of mathematics, modularity and repetition when composing the dance. Next to this video, there are minimalistic sculptures on the walls from Donald Judd, who created designs for some of Brown’s choreography. Then, a strong sculptural work is on display from Ronald Bladen.

The exhibition “Where Sculpture and Dance Meet: Minimalism from 1961 to 1979”, is curated by Wendy Perron, who is the author of “Through the Eyes of a Dancer” and former editor in chief of Dance Magazine. It is co-curated by Julie Martin, who is an independent scholar and currently Director of Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). The exhibit is on display from September 10 until October 31st, 2015 at Loretta Howard Gallery, 525-531 West 26th Street, New York.

 

 

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