The Contemporary Austin presents an exhibition by artists Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin at its downtown Austin venue, the Jones Center at 700 Congress Avenue. On view January 23 through March 17, 2019, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance is a retrospective of work from the past thirty years by New York–based artist Janine Antoni (Bahamian, born 1964 in Freeport, Grand Bahama), including sculptures and photographs. The exhibition also includes a solo dance performance by Antoni developed collaboratively with the pioneering dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin (American, born 1920 in Wilmette, Illinois).
On view on the second floor of the Jones Center, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance invites visitors to experience an immersive, evolving arrangement of artworks and a series of fifteen live performances by Antoni. The works on view and performances are presented in three rotations focusing on themes prevalent throughout Antoni’s career: motherhood (January 23 – February 3), identity (February 5 – 24), and absence (February 26 – March 17). Together, Paper Dance provides an intriguing look into Antoni’s hybrid artistic practice, highlighting the ways in which she uses the body as tool and material in her performance and visual art. Through the changing nature of the exhibition and the artist’s time-based activation of the galleries, audiences will encounter a multitude of experiences over the course of the exhibition. Paper Dance is organized by Julia V. Hendrickson, Associate Curator, The Contemporary Austin, in collaboration with Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement.
Says Hendrickson, “The museum is thrilled to showcase a glimpse into the depth and breadth of Janine Antoni’s powerful work over the last thirty years, to tease out some key themes throughout her career, and to bring to Austin this unique take on an artist’s retrospective. While Antoni is primarily known as a sculptor, performance manifests itself in many of her processes. Paper Dance unites her physical art making with live performance, showing the importance that the body has had to the artist. Audiences will be able to experience, alongside the artist, connections between objects, movement, and space, gaining insight into the experience and memory of their making.” Adds Mellard, “The intimate performances Antoni developed collaboratively with Anna Halprin build on the choreographer’s legacy and offer the public a unique opportunity to see the visual artist in action, interacting with her own legacy through past works. It is an honor to invite Antoni back to Austin and to present this unique, hybrid project, which is both deeply affecting and reveals great insight into her process.”
The exhibition at the Jones Center consists of a wooden dance floor and thirty-nine wooden art crates containing thirty-eight works of Antoni’s sculpture and photography from 1989 to the present. As visitors enter the space, they will see the dance floor, along with an arrangement of crates, which also serve as seating during the live performances. Through three separate thematic rotations, these crates will be reconfigured, unpacked, and packed by the artist and art handlers both during and in between performances, so that the space—and artworks on view—changes over time, allowing for a new experience for those who return throughout the exhibition.
Each thematic rotation begins with the crates installed in a rough oval (imagined by the artist as a “nest” encircling the dance floor). During each performance, Antoni will remove a few artworks from the crates, so that a total of twelve to sixteen works are progressively revealed during each rotation. For example, during the first thematic rotation, motherhood, the nest of crates and their accompanying artworks will eventually be rearranged into tableaus, with works on view such as Umbilical, 2000, a cast sterling silver sculpture of a spoon with negative impressions of the artist’s mouth on one end and her mother’s hand on the other, and If I Die Before I Wake (mother’s hand meets daughter’s hand in prayer), 2004, a translucent porcelain nightlight similarly depicting each of their hands meeting in common prayer, close in size but distinguished by the signs of age that mark the hand of the mother.
The score of the Paper Dance performances derives from a 1965 dance work by Halprin, Parades and Changes, featuring dancers interacting with brown paper while performing the act of dressing and undressing—elements that recur in Paper Dance. A video excerpt of Halprin’s Parades and Changes is on view in this exhibition, connecting Antoni’s body of work to Halprin’s influential expansion of the boundaries of dance and performance to encompass social issues, build community, and foster personal healing.
Inspired by this historic performance by Halprin, within the museum gallery will be placed long rolls of brown paper, which Antoni will use during her performances as she wraps and tangles her body in and out of the paper’s folds, alternately clothed and nude as she moves through the space. The crumpled brown paper will be left following each performance, so that a pile of these relics will grow through the course of the exhibition. During museum open hours, visitors may walk among the crates and view the artworks; they may also encounter the artist and art handlers working behind-the-scenes to rearrange crates and artworks between performances.
Says Louis Grachos, Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director & CEO of The Contemporary Austin: “Moving and surprising, Janine’s works reflect many of the directions of contemporary art over the last thirty years in a deeply personal way. I couldn’t be more pleased to present this thoughtful and dynamic show, and I encourage the public to make repeat visits to experience the exhibition as it evolves.”
Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance follows a previous collaboration between Antoni and The Contemporary Austin. In 2015, Antoni was invited with the dancer and choreographer Stephen Petronio to present Incubator, an exhibition of collaborative and solo video, sculpture, and photography that was co-sponsored by The Contemporary and testsite, Austin, and exhibited at testsite. Antoni first presented Paper Dance publicly in 2016 as part of the exhibition Ally, featuring collaborative projects between Antoni, Halprin, and Petronio at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Early versions of Paper Dance were performed by Antoni between 2013 and 2015 at Halprin’s Dance Deck in Northern California, an important contemporary dance site since the early 1950s.
Tickets for the Paper Dance live performances are free with museum admission; advance tickets are recommended at thecontemporaryaustin.org/paperdance.
The museum will also present a range of exhibition-related programs, including an Artist Talk on February 5, 2019, in which Antoni will discuss how her past work continues to reveal itself when experienced through improvisational movement, and Open for Discussion on February 19, 2019, a group conversation about motherhood, identity, and absence, in which the public is invited to participate. Additionally, on March 6, 2019, the museum will present a rooftop film screening of Spirit Labour (directed by Hugo Glendinning and Adrian Heathfield, 2016, 41 min.) that follows the creative practice of Janine Antoni and her collaborations and conversations with the dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin and the writer Hélène Cixous.