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Dance/Draw Exhibit Review

Arts & Culture | January 31, 2012

Through January 16, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art is running an exhibit entitled “Dance/Draw.” Spanning the past several decades and arriving at the present, the exhibit explores an ever-changing relationship between dancing, drawing, and the artist. “Dance/Draw” encompasses the work of many different artists in all sorts of styles and mediums, and the ICA describes it as “a landmark exhibition exploring the dynamic exchange taking place between visual art and dance today.”

The exhibit is separated into four individual rooms that each represents a distinct concept. Labeled “Hand,” “Line,” “Dancing,” and “Drawing,” each seeks to redefine its respective facet of art. In the “Hand” room, different works of art are used to demonstrate the part that body parts other than the hand can play in the process of creating art. One striking example was David Hammons’ “Body Print,” a piece in which the artist covered his face and upper body in grease, imprinted them upon the page, and then used colored powder to accentuate different areas of his impression.

In a similar vein, the three other rooms push the boundaries of line, drawing, and dance. In the “Line” room, there is a piece by artist Paul Chan entitled “Lights” that is comprised entirely of tiny black scraps of paper that are carefully placed upon musical scores to create musical notes and other shapes. The “Dance” room houses an interesting experiment in role-reversal, in which dancers have created drawings of artists dancing.

There is a plethora of multimedia works of art in both the “Dancing” and “Drawing” rooms. The walls are plastered with screens showing experimental dance videos. In one video an artist filmed a dancer while improvising, then edited the clip and re-ordered the sequence of movements, then asked the dancer to re-perform the dance in the edited sequence. Bits and pieces of dance history are scattered throughout the exhibit—incorporated into the artwork, written on the walls, and explained in brief abstracts. The 1960s and ’70s “revolution in dance” is referenced many times, and the art around the rooms is a powerful representation of the transformations dance has undergone.

The entire exhibit is diverse and captivating, and the range of artists and art forms presented prevents the viewer from becoming bored or unappreciative. At the same time, the curators have struck a perfect balance that keeps the audience from becoming overwhelmed by the wide spread of material contained within the exhibition.

In the final room of the exhibit—the “drawing” room—one artist is credited with a quotation that sums up the entire display quite well. The artist, Helena Almeida, incorporates various combinations of drawing and photography into a style that is arguably an elaborate journey into her own self-portrait. Of her art, she said, “I turn myself into a drawing. My body, as a drawing. Myself as my own work.”