Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whitney Biennial: Rashaad Newsome/Kelly Nipper

I visited the Whitney Biennial yesterday and was thrilled with the collection as a culmination of contemporary American art. Keeping in mind our assignment to compare/contrast, I took note of two artists, Rashaad Newsome, and Kelly Nipper comparing one of each of their works.

Kelly Nipper's piece entitled, Weather Center, from 2009, is a single-channel video projection in black and white with sound, lasting 5:11. The artist's concept was to have the dancers movements mimic weather patterns. The dance, performed by Taisha Paggett, is closely based on German Expressionist choreographer, Mary Wigman's piece, Witch Dance.
Rashaad Newsome's piece Untitled and Untitled (New Way), from 2009, is a single-channel high definition silent video in color, lasting 8:07. Various single dancers perform the style vogue, and scenes of it are cut and spliced together to create this collection of movements in Untitled. In Untitled (New Way), Newsome shows the dancers Untitled and has them perform the dance that he essentially made, by piecing clips of their dancing together.

As a dancer, I found these two videos particularly interesting. In the dance world, just as in visual arts, new forms and styles fight for significance, for acceptance, recognition. Rashaad Newsome's works, Untitled and Untitled (New Way) argue for the legitimacy as vogue as style of dance worthy of high art's eyes. The movements that these men perform are beautiful and flowing, then dynamic, as they fall to the floor and rhythmically snake themselves up again. The legitimacy of this as a dance form aesthetically and athletically is successfully argued for. As I sat there for sometime viewing the work people came and went, and often laughed, maybe because these men are gay, maybe because they are dancing in this typically gay style. I don't know. What was evident though, was that anyone who sat and fully watched this work, and watched it more than once, would see the beauty of the lines of the bodies and the dynamism of the movements; essentially the success of the composition of the work.
Kelly Nipper's piece, Weather Center, need not argue as much for the legitimacy of its form of dance, Modern. Contemporary Dance has been around for nearly a century, with strictures became increasingly looser throughout time. Viewers still seemed to find the perfomer's modern dance to be too silly for them to handle, despite much of the choreography coming from a piece from 1914! I thought the dancer's movements were entrancing, rhythmic, and highly emotive. The dancer performed seated mostly, and it had a spiritual feel to it. Dubbed over top of the dancer's movements was a voice counting to ten over and over, but the movements and the numbers seemed entirely independent of one another. I don't think that the piece needed the counts, really. Also, dance is usually counted in 8's, not 10's.

I thought both of these pieces were dynamic and entrancing, while still subtly arguing for their right to be revered.

No comments:

Post a Comment