Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened on Saturday the exhibition, The Art of American Dance, which remains on view through January 16, 2017.
The Art of American Dance is the first major traveling exhibition to explore American art related to the many forms of dance. The exhibition examines dance-inspired paintings, prints, sculptures, and photographs from the 1830s to the recent past—from dance in Native American cultures to ballroom dancing, the Jitterbug, swing, modern dance, burlesque, classical ballet, and more. It features some 90 artworks by iconic artists such as John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Robert Henri, William Merritt Chase, Nick Cave, and Faith Ringgold.
“We are honored to be the final stop on The Art of American Dance exhibition tour,” said Crystal Bridges Executive Director, Rod Bigelow. “As we approach the museum’s fifth anniversary, it’s important to find new ways to connect visitors to art and everyday life—this exhibition does that with dance-inspired works that provide insights into cultural, social, and political moments in our nation’s history.”
The exhibition was organized by Detroit Institute of Arts, where it was on view March through June, 2016 it then was on view at The Denver Art Museum from July through October, 2016. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the exhibition’s final venue.
"My hope is to elevate dance in the museum setting and share the rich history of dancers and artists to explain how they inspired one another,” said Jane Dini, former associate curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and curator of the exhibition.
At Crystal Bridges, the exhibition is divided into two main sections. The first section features depictions of everyday people engaged in social dances. As artists explore community dance, issues of class, race, tradition, belief, sexuality, and gender are revealed. The second half of the exhibition focuses on professional dancers on stage. As dance became more recognized as performance art, visual artists, dancers, choreographers, designers, and musicians collaborated to create interdisciplinary performances. Three works from Crystal Bridges’ collection are included in the exhibition: John Singer Sargent’s Capri Girl on a Rooftop, Marisol’s Martha Graham, and Nick Cave’s Soundsuit.
“The Art of American Dance invites viewers to investigate the ever-shifting and expanding relationship between American artists and dance,” says Crystal Bridges’ Assistant Curator Alejo Benedetti. “This exhibition reveals colorful and important moments in America’s history through the unfolding partnership between art and dance.”
The artworks follow the theme of dance through diverse segments of American history and society; among them are Native American traditional dance paintings from the turn of the 20th century featuring international dance celebrities; works by Harlem Renaissance artists who challenged negative stereotypes and sought to create and sustain a vibrant cultural identity; and modern objects such as costumes or photographs that demonstrate the influence visual artists, dancers and choreographers had on one another.
Alongside works in the gallery, the exhibition brings programs and interactives that help connect the viewer to the rich history of dance and art through contemporary dancers, choreographers, and historians. For example, seven videos throughout the exhibition feature dancers discussing and demonstrating American dance traditions such as the Osage Nation dances, performed by Director of Student Engagement, Inclusion and Multicultural Programs at Oklahoma City University, Russ Tallchief. The video helps reveals the important role dance plays in religious ritual and affirms the significance of these customs today.
“In addition to the outstanding works of art, it was important to have the voice and expertise of dancers within the exhibition itself. They help illustrate how dance as an artistic form impacts fine arts, especially painting and sculpture,” Dini adds.