From: Denver Art Museum Limited Edition: 9 Exhibition: Rhythm & Roots: Dance in America Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl Dimensions: 30" x 89" (76cm x 226cm)
Hanging Hardware Included
Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art brought movement to the Denver Art Museum, which, like most museums, usually celebrates stationary fine art. This exhibition explored the evolution of dance in America from 1830 to 1960. One of the items exhibited was Anna Pavlova’s tutu from her signature ballet, The Dying Swan, which she performed 4,000 times. “Get my ‘swan” costume ready” were the dancer’s last words in 1931 and a ‘performance’ was held the next day as the music played and a light shown on an empty stage. The Russian dancer visited the U.S. in 1910, deeply influencing future generations of American ballet lovers with her passion and grace. The prima ballerina’s tutu, one of only two known, was unique to the Denver Art Museum’s portion of the traveling exhibition.
The Denver Arts Museum’s exhibition, Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art, examined America’s distinct dance traditions as they developed and crossed paths. Featuring more than 90 paintings, photographs, sculptures and costumes, the exhibition was divided into four parts (Roots, Rhythm, Stage, and Collaboration) by its curator, Angelica Daneo, to provide a sociological and historical context.
It explored many dance forms, including the sacred dances of the Native Americans and the “swing” culture developed in Harlem nightclubs. It showed how dance moved from the private to the public stage, and club dancing and performance became the subject of much art. Featured were paintings of iconic American dancers such as Katherine Dunham, Isadora Duncan as well as the Spanish dancer Carmencita Dauset Moreno (the first woman to appear in a U.S. motion picture filmed by Thomas Edison); a bust of American dancer Josephine Baker who won the hearts of Parisians; and posters designed by world-renowned graphic designers, John Sorbie who founded the graphic arts department at Colorado State University and Phil Risbeck who later joined the department. Famous artists such as William H. Johnson, John Singer Sargent, Franz Kline, and Max Webber were included alongside lesser known artists.
The Collaborations section of the exhibition examined the joint efforts of artists, dancers, and choreographers. It included a reinvention of Silver Clouds, an Andy Warhol installation in which people could interact with silver mylar balloons floating around a room. In 1966, when Silver Clouds was originally installed at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, it challenged the idea that art was something to be viewed, not touched. This inspired many of Warhol’s contemporaries, including the dramatic dance choreographer, Merce Cunningham, who choreographed RainForest around the work. A video of Rainforest, which featured dancers wearing Jasper Johns costumes, was projected within the exhibition’s Silver Clouds installation. In addition to the galleries of art, the exhibition integrated video and music spaces to inspire movement and bring dance to life. The DanceLab, for example, was an interactive video installation where museum goers could follow step-by-step choreographed movements and see themselves in action projected on a large screen.
The Denver Art Museum created a series of three banners to promote the exhibition in the Denver area. The first two banners are related, both with an orange and yellow background and a vibrant dancer covering the banner with “Denver Art Museum” in white at the bottom. Banner 1 shows a purple female dancer wearing a white bodiced-costume that transitions to a bold magenta and white skirt. With arms spread wide and heels kicked high, she appears to be airborne against an orange-yellow background with yellow web-like lines that merge with concentric circles. Banner 2 presents a male dancer in purple with a white shirt also in full dance swing against a yellow-orange background with yellow star-like lines. Banner 3 nicely coordinates with the dancer banners with its purple, magenta, and line-imagery background. The words “SUMMER OF DANCE!” appear sideways vertical with “Denver Art Museum” at the bottom horizontally, all in white.
This banner was displayed around the Denver area between July 10 and October 2, 2016. The traveling exhibition began at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and after the Denver Art Museum, was on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.