Barbican Art Gallery Presents Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark Pioneers of the Downtown Scene

. March 4, 2011 . 0 Comments

The Barbican Art Gallery presents Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970s. This is the first major presentation to examine the experimental and often daring approaches – from dancing on rooftops to cutting fragments out of abandoned buildings – taken by these three leading figures in the rough-and-ready arts scene developing in downtown Manhattan during the 1970s. Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson, choreographer Trisha Brown and artist Gordon Matta-Clark were friends and active participants in the New York art community, working fluidly between visual art and performance. Open 3 March – 22 May 2011.

The exhibition, curated by Lydia Yee, brings together around 160 works by Anderson, Brown and Matta-Clark, many rarely seen, with some presented for the first time outside New York. Featuring sculptures, drawings, photographs, films, live performances and mixed media works, as well as posters, documentation and other ephemera, the exhibition focuses on the intersections between their practices and explores their mutual concerns — performance, the urban environment and an emphasis on process and experimentation.

New York City provided a powerful context for the work of Anderson, Brown and Matta-Clark. On the verge of bankruptcy in the 1970s, and faced with the disappearance of manufacturing industries, the city was turning into a centre of widespread unemployment and lawlessness. In search of large, cheap spaces, artists responded by converting derelict buildings into live-work lofts, to make and exhibit their work. These artists sought to distance themselves from the dominant artistic movements of the 1960s, Pop art and Minimalism, in which the object was paramount. Taking art out of the conventional gallery context and performance off the stage, they used the city as the setting for their work. Performances took place in the streets, on buildings and in the cavernous artist loft spaces in downtown New York.

As an integral part of this exhibition, dancers perform three groundbreaking works by Trisha Brown every day. Taking place in the lower level with its six-metre, double-height ceiling, the Barbican’s gallery space echoes the large scale of the industrial lofts of SoHo, and also offers visitors the opportunity to view the performances from multiple vantage points. In Planes (1968), a film by experimental film and video artist J ud Yalkut, including aerial footage of the New York skyline, is projected on to a vertical wall on which three performers climb — giving the illusion that they are freefalling and changing scale. In Floor of the Forest (1970), dancers dress and undress their way through a grid of ropes threaded through clothing and tied across a 12 by 14 foot metal pipe frame. Presented outside of New York for the first time, Walking on the Wall (1971), features dancers harnessed and rigged to a track on the ceiling; as they are walking on the wall they appear to defy gravity and shift the viewer’s sense of perspective.

Originally trained as an architect, Gordon Matta-Clark often combined sculpture and performance in his work. In Open House (1972), he built narrow corridors out of salvaged doors and wood inside an industrial waste container. On a rainy day, Matta-Clark filmed performers moving through the narrow passageways with their umbrellas held above the container signalling their movements to those in the street. Dancers and other artists create their own interpretation of this piece within the gallery. The exhibition also features his building cuts, including his seminal works Splitting (1974), which is represented by a large scale sculpture, photographs and a film. For the piece Matta-Clark scaled the side of a two-storey house in New Jersey, made a vertical cut through the exterior of the house and then sliced through the interior walls, floors and staircase. He described this feat as ‘like a dance with the building’.

Some of Laurie Anderson’s earliest works took place in downtown New York and were informed by conceptual and street performance. For Institutional Dream Series (1972), Anderson slept in public places in an attempt to determine if specific sites influenced her dreams. Anderson’s early work introduced the combination of image and text that remain a constant narrative device throughout her work. Also on view are a number of her early sculptural works that foreground her interest in storytelling and experimentation with sound.

Drawing is an important part of the exhibition. Portable and inexpensive, this was the ideal medium for all three artists to record or convey ideas for new pieces and performances in the form of plans, scores and instructions. The exhibition also features documentation and ephemera from the legendary SoHo restaurant, Food, created by Matta-Clark and friends as a place to work, eat and gather, and photographs from a 1974 exhibition mounted by the influential Anarchitecture group which included Matta-Clark, Anderson and other friends.

One of the leading art spaces in the UK, Barbican Art Gallery presents the best of international visual art with a dynamic mix of art, architecture, design, fashion and photography. The Curve is dedicated to a vibrant programme of new commissions, created by leading international artists in direct response to this distinctive gallery space.

Category: Art Culture

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