Dance and Contemporary Art: Luhring Augustine Review

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As a dancer and contemporary art-lover, I spend my academic career at SLC struggling to balance my passion for art with my hectic life as a dance third, and I constantly venture to intertwine the two fields. While I often find bits of dance everywhere I go (in books, films, fashion, music, art, etc) I feel quite fulfilled to find art that explicitly draws inspiration from dance. This semester, I am thrilled to discover that my spring internship at Luhring Augustine, one of my favorite galleries in Chelsea (531 West 24th Street) has featured multiple dance-related shows.

When I first began working in February, Charles Atlas’ video installation, The Waning of Justice, had just debuted at the gallery. Atlas has collaborated with choreographer Merce Cunningham for years, and draws much inspiration from movement. His installation at Luhring Augustine featured a series of sunsets shot at an Artist Residency in Florida; shades of yellows, oranges, pinks, reds and purples were projected against the walls in a silky, balletic fashion. As viewers moved across the space, their bodies became silhouetted by said sunsets. The watchers became performers, essential to the personality of the piece.

The gallery’s new show highlights Janine Antoni, a Sarah Lawrence alumni who has studied and practiced dance for years, and now specializes in sculpture. Her new work, From the Vow Made, is inspired by movement, muscles, and bones. The Press Release begins:

Throw back your head and sip from the bowl of your own breast. Wear your mother’s pelvic bones as a collar. Become a snake, intertwining your spine with another and crawl across a woven rug. Let your head melt through your lover’s chest and listen for their heart. Embrace someone so fully that your ribs weave to become one.

Upon entering the exhibit, viewers move through a bright white room housing seven small-scale sculptures resembling bones and bodies. The pieces are influenced by milagros, described in the Press Release as “sculptural votive offerings used in Latin cultures.” Antoni distorts these offerings, or everyday objects, (such as cabinets, pitchers, stools, and baskets) into structures reminiscent of body parts. The pieces are crafted out of an ivory polyurethane resin. My personal favorite is Antoni’s tiny bone basket: a hollowed out sculpture woven out of rib-like lines.

In the second gallery, Antoni pairs with choreographer Stephen Petronio to create an eerie film, Honey Baby. The room is completely dark; a single screen plays a hyper-muscular male dancer naked, covered in honey, orbiting and spiraling in a cyclical, womb-like black hole. The sticky weight of the honey inspires slow movements in the dancer, who stretches his limbs like a new-born learning how to move. The references to the fetus are enhanced by the soundtrack, which echoes repetitive ultrasound pulses. When I first saw the show, I was entranced by the mover’s musculature–swelling, sustaining, pushing against the honey–and drew many similarities to Antoni’s muscled sculptures in the adjacent gallery.

As a mover, I am constantly aware of my body. Each dance class works a different set of muscle groups, and I have come to not just feel, but understand my body. When is dance pleasurable? When is dance painful? Which sleeping positions or stretches aid in releasing said pain? How do my bones work? How do my muscles move? I ask myself these questions everyday, and part of the reason that I am so enchanted by Antoni’s sculptures is because they create a dialog around objects and bodies, as well as physical pleasure and physical pain. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Antoni’s work, on display at Luhring Augustine through April 25.

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Hannah Gottlieb-Graham is a sophomore studying dance, art history and women's studies. In her spare time she enjoys writing articles for Surface Magazine and College Fashion, cooking vegetarian cuisine, gallery hopping, shooting film and making her own perfume. Her weaknesses are Wes Anderson and good champagne. Insta: @sweetsweetnoir

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