Angel Reapers

Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry's "Angel Reapers" American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.(Photo by Sara D. Davis/ADF 2010)

Finely crafted furniture and harmoniously proportioned buildings are some of the things that come to mind when one hears the name “Shakers.” The Shakers (their formal name was The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) considered work as a form of worship, a belief reflected in every aspect of their lives, from their simple unadorned furniture to the separate but equal living quarters. They believed in being perfect and in practicing celibacy. This fascinating group of people are the subject of Angel Reapers, a hybrid theatre, music and dance show presented by Arts Emerson at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Angel Reapers is choreographed and directed by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Martha Clarke and written by Alfred Uhry, winner of the Academy Award (Driving Miss Daisy. Yes, this Driving Miss Daisy), two Tony Awards (Parade, which I saw a few years ago at the Boston Center for the Arts and The Last Night of Ballyhoo) and a Pulitzer Prize (not to brag, but last night’s opening was even more fantastic thanks to the presence of Clarke, Uhry and Arthur Solari, the musical director). Angel Reapers isn’t shy to explore and indulge in the many pleasures that the Shaker denied themselves. It is ravishing, seductive, and erotic made compelling by Clarke’s marvelous choreography and the many traditional Shaker songs sung a cappella. Angel Reapers will leave humming one or two of those songs as you exit the theatre. Of this, I’m certain.

Angel Reapers is playing until November 20th. For ticketing information, trailer, and more images click here.

REVIEW – Dance/Draw – The ICA’s Newest Exhibition Will Have You Dancing and Drawing

Juan Capistran, The Breaks, 2000, Inkjet print, 40 x 40 in., Collection of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, The Altoids Curiously Strong Collection, gift of Altoids

Until now, I have not been a fan of most of the exhibitions that have originated at the ICA. Helen Molesworth, the ICA’s chief curator has organized an exciting show that traces the journey of the line from changes in drawing in the 1960’s to its explosion off the page and into three dimensional space, which ultimately finds itself in the realm of dance. Dance/Draw (October 7 – January 16, 2012) is beautiful, dazzling, dynamic and engaging (Cornelia Parker’s Hanging Fire (Suspended Arson) does not convince me yet in this show, but I can be persuaded. Possibly.).

Trisha Brown, Floor of the Forest, 1970, Metal Pipe, used clothing, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Photo: Isabel Winarsch/documenta 12.

Dance/Draw looks back to the 1960’s where artists began to make drawings with “a wide range of materials and they frequently did so using more than simply their hands.”Approximately 100 works ranging from
video, photography, drawings, and sculpture are featured in Molesworth’s first major show at the ICA. A series of live performances will also take place in the galleries and in the theater including Trisha Brown’s 1970 seminal work Floor of the Forest, part sculpture, part dance prop and part performance. This performance is a breath of fresh air.

Trisha Brown, Untitled 2007 Charcoal, pastel on paper Framed 55 ½ x 64 in. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund. Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College

In the first gallery, Trisha Brown’s “Untitled, 2007” a charcoal and pastel drawing, is according to Molesworth “the drawing that started it all.” Re-defining the conventional meaning of drawing, the works in this gallery borrow from dance and performance to explore medium using more than just the hand. Feet, eyelashes, hair or the artist’s entire body is incorporated into the creation of a work on paper.

Janine Antoni, Loving Care, 1993, Performance with Loving Care hair dye in

Janine Antoni’s Loving Care, 1992-1996 a performance at the Wadsworth Athenaeum shows the artist dragging her “Natural Black” dye saturated hair back and forth across the floor, in the process creating an “ink drawing.” Butterfly Kisses, another work by Antoni created by battling her mascara-coated eyelashes against a piece of paper. These two works are wonderful and made my heart skip a beat. They’re flirtatious and playful, but so is the rest of the exhibition.

In curating this show, Molesworth did not forget to make it as geographically and as culturally diverse as possible (yes, this matters to me as a person of color). Not only is Dan Ranalli, a Boston artist and Professor at Boston University included in this show, but so are the works of Cecilia Vicuña, Helena Almeida, and Robin Rhode and many other interesting and remarkable artists.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.065), early 1960

Ruth Asawa’s suspended wire bulbous sculptures, Faith Wilding’s womb-like web, Amy Sillman’s gouache and charcoal drawings of couples in intimate positions, and Sadie Benning’s Play Pause, a video made using hundreds of gouache drawings were all pleasantly sweet surprises that stole the show for me.

Another pleasant surprise was seeing the Mediatheque transformed by the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña’s with a site specific work titled Water Weaving, 2011. A space wasted no more. The exhibition catalog is disappointing as it does not do justice to the show, but c’est la vie.

Dance/Draw is ambitious in scope and it delivers knockout punches that will have you craving for more. The show is the Paso Doble of exhibitions, it starts off strong and finishes off strong.