Sunday, January 16, 2011

Museum Visit: MoMA: Trisha Brown

The Trisha Brown Dance Company appeared at The Museum of Modern Art as part of a program of live performance and dance connected with the exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century,

"...if one considers line as the trace of a point in motion—the very act of dance becomes a drawing, an insertion of line into time and the three-dimensional space of our lived world." (MoMA)

The setting for the performance was the spectacularly beautiful, four-story, atrium space on the second floor, with pristine white walls, pierced with windows and glass-walled balconies.

A large rectangle had been taped on the floor to define the performance space. People begin arrive and sit on the floor outside the taped rectangle.

The dancers appeared, dressed in white Tshirts and pants. They lifted 10 foot poles and carefully balanced them on their arms, their feet.

They lay on the floor and made the poles touch to create a line in space. They maintained the line perfectly as they carefully rolled out from under them, then crouched and rolled back under maintaining contact. Wow. We were reminded that dance requires amazing balance and control.

The second dance was called "Scallops." Five dancers stood in a line along one side of the rectangle, facing the center. The dancer on the end turned the line of dancers so their backs faced the center.

(If you traced a line on the floor that followed the path of the dancers, it would form a curved arc, the shape of a scallop.) The dancers repeated the "scallops" along each side of the rectangle until they reached their entrance point. Dancers "draw" patterns as they move.

The third dance was called "Locus: Solo." A solo dancer entered a small rectangle taped on the floor in the middle of the room. She danced a simple series of connected "everyday" movements inside the rectangle: bending, lifting one leg, then the other, jumping, turning, lying down, standing a dance. It seemed that she never repeated a single movement. There are hundreds of ways to move your body.

The fourth dance was called "Rooftops." The dance was originaly done in Soho on several rooftops. It was reworked for the MoMA performance. A dancer in red was placed on each level of the museum space, from the first floor entrance level all the way up to the sixth floor.

You could see the dancers through the architectural openings, the cross-walks, and positioned in the entrance lobby. The dancers all performed the same series of movements, with slight differences. The audience moved around to see the dancers. The Museum architecture was a partner in the dance. It was wonderful to see the Museum space in a new way.

I found Trisha Brown's ideas dazzling, and MoMA's gorgeous space truly beautiful.

Here is a Trisha Brown-inspired dance project you can try at home:

Tape a rectangle on the floor. The size should be a square based on the length of the dancer's waist to her toe. Set an egg timer to one minute. Choreograph a dance with connected everyday movements - bending, jumping, rolling, waving stroking... Count the number of movements you do. See how many you can do. Compare your total with that of your friends and family.

This is the link to MoMA's "On Line" exhibition
"The dancing body has long been a subject matter for drawing, as seen in a variety of works included in this exhibition. These documentations show dance in two dimensions, allowing it to be seen in a gallery setting. But if one considers line as the trace of a point in motion—an idea at the core of this project—the very act of dance becomes a drawing, an insertion of line into time and the three-dimensional space of our lived world."

This is the link to the Trisha Brown event at the MoMA.

Trisha Brown (American b. 1936) is a "different" kind of choreographer, a "conceptualist?" She creates dances based on everyday actions and repetitive gestures, instead of classical ballet or modern dance movements. She is often called a "minimalist." Her dances are simple and clear, often without music. Trisha became known in the 1960's when she showed her work at the Judson Dance Theater, and alternative-space in New York City's West Village. She is known for her site-specific choreography, and has worked with opera and the ballet. The dances featured in this event were originally performed in 1971.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Studio Visit Project: Paul Klee "Lines, Dots and Circles"

 A Drawing  by Paul Klee

Here is an amazing drawing lesson for very young children. It was inspired by artist Paul Klee's "Pedagogical Notebooks," two volumes based on Klee's teaching at the Bauhaus, the legendary art and architecture school. The "Notebooks" describe Klee's ideas about the fundamentals of drawing. While his ideas are sophisticated, they are readily accessible to children. Children learn that art is composed of lines, dots and circles, and that they can create many, many drawings using these simple elements. They also learn that "Lines, Dots and Circles" are part of an art “vocabulary” that will help them talk about their drawings.

Here are the materials you will need for the 
"Lines, Dots and Circles" project: A large dining table (or the floor) Crayons (beeswax are non-toxic and nice and bright) A roll of paper approximately 18”x20 feet.  Painter’s Tape (easy-release) to hold down the paper.

The "Lines, Dots and Circles" drawing project can be a great game. Uma (two years old) and I "played" it. Here is a how you can "play" it with your child. 

We put on some favorite music, taped an 18” x 40” piece of paper to the dining room table, and took out a few crayons.

(Draw a long line. Try to make it a kind of performance.)
(Draw and talk as you walk along drawing the long line.)
“Here is a long, long line.”
(Repeat) “Here is another long line.” 
“Two long lines.” "Let's draw some lines together."
(You and your child walk along and draw long lines.) 
“What color is this line?” “What color is this one?”

(Draw a long wiggley line.)
"Look at this wiggley line.”
(Draw several wiggley lines in different colors.)
“Wiggley blue, wiggley red, wiggley green.”
(Draw fast. Slow.)
“Fast. Slow.”
(You and your child draw lines, dots, and wiggley lines faster and slower.)
“This line is sooo long."
" This line is so short.”
“This line is so wiggley.”
Stand back (many times) to admire your work.

(Draw a small dot.)
“Here is a dot.”
(You and your child draw dots, small dots, big dots.)
"Let's draw lots of dots."
"They look like rain."

“Let’s draw some circles”
(Draw some big circles.
“Round and round, big circles.”
(Move your arm round and round.)
(You and your child draw circles. )
(I gently moved her arm in big circles until she caught on and did it herself.)
(Draw some medium-size circles over and over.)
“Medium size circles, round and round.”
(You and your child draw circles.)
“Round and round.”
(Draw small circles.)
“Small circles, round and round.”
(You and your child draw some small circles.)
(Talk about the circles.)
“Three circles, one big, one medium, one small.”
(Draw two eyes, a nose and a big smile inside each circle.)
“Smiley faces. Who are they? Momma, Poppa, and you?”
(Draw Momma’s curly hair with wiggley lines.)
“Look Momma’s curly hair.”

"Let's draw some animals! "
"Old MacDonald's animals."
"And on his farm he had a..."
(Draw a small circle for the head.)
(Draw a larger circle for the body.)
(Draw little triangles for ears.)
(Draw four lines for legs and one for a tail.)
“Look! It’s a sheep.”
(Draw some circles for a cat.)
“Meow, it’s a cat.”
“What other animals does Old MacDonald have?”
(Draw more circles for a horse, two ears, four legs, a tail.)
“Let's draw Mary Mary, how does her garden grow?”
(Draw some flowers, a dot for the center, loops around for the petals.)
(Draw a circle for the sun. Draw some lines radiating out.)
“The sun helps the flowers grow.”
(Draw some more flowers.)
“The garden has lots of flowers.
Stand back (many times) to admire your work.

After about 10 minutes (a long time), ask “Is this drawing finished?"
“Yes? Let’s tape it to the wall.”
(Tape the drawing to the wall with the easy-release Painter’s Tape.)
Put it at the child’s height.)
(Talk about the lines, the dots and the circles.)
(Talk about drawing playdates with your family and friends.)
Your child will enjoy showing her drawing and explaining it.
You can help her describe the drawing using the terms she has learned.

Uma poses in front of her drawing "Lines, Dots and Circles"

Here are some links to Paul Klee and his Pedagogical Notebooks:

Paul Klee's (18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. Klee and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Paul Klee in his studio

Paul Klee's Pedagogical Notebooks contain his lectures at the Bauhaus art and architecture school, in the 1920s in Germany. These volumes are considered so important for understanding modern art, they are compared to the importance that Leonardo's A Treatise on Painting had for the Renaissance. Herbert Read, the art philosopher, called the "Notebooks" "the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist. The volumes constitute the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton's in the realm of physics."