Jeffrey Deitch and Mana Contemporary Celebrate Armitage Dance and Art
Armitage was once dubbed the "punk ballerina."
It felt like some of the recent bling from Art Basel in Miami Beach had traveled north to Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, last night (December 15), where a cocktail reception, dance performance, and elegant dinner for about 150 guests was held. The event was in honor of a new show opening next month (January 11), curated by Jeffrey Deitch, that looks back at 35 years of collaboration between dance pioneer Karole Armitage, and artists including David Salle, Jeff Koons, Philip Taaffe, Christian Marclay, Carroll Dunham, Karen Kilimnick and Brice Marden.
The sprawling Mana Glass Gallery was filled with various sets and costumes used in performances. Among the most eye-catching was the set for Contempt (1989), featuring a backdrop and costumes by Salle, and a pink, inflatable Pig costume, designed by Koons. The pig, as well Koons’ giant cake costumes coincided with his landmark “Banality” exhibition and prefigured his later Celebration series, as Deitch points out in the catalogue essay. (Deitch was present but Koons was unable to attend, Armitage noted while thanking both in a speech). Also a standout was Philip Taaffe’s room-filling installation backdrop of glowing psychedelic images for Itutu (2009), with costumes designed by Peter Speliopoulos.
As Deitch points out in an essay, Armitage, who was dubbed the “punk ballerina” in the 1980s, “does not ask artists to make art as scenery. The backdrops and props are independent artworks that are fused with choreography and music to create an integrated work of performance art.”
Viewers were treated to a pre-dinner performance of Life Story (1999) with Armitage dancers Emily Wagner and Ruka Hatua-Saar followed by a performance of On the Nature of Things (2014), where Wagner and Hatua-Saar were joined by fellow company members Ahmaud Culver, Megumi Eda, Abbey Roesner, Randall Smith, and Izabela Szylinka, who slipped away to change before rejoining the guests for dinner.
Many dinner attendees, even those very familiar with the oeuvres of contemporary art stars like David Salle, were surprised to learn of their intense involvement with dance. Of course, collaboration between the two practices is nothing new, as it continues a rich history marked by alliances including Picasso and Sergei Diaghiliev for the Ballets Russes and Robert Rauschenberg working with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, respectively. Armitage, who is the only choreographer to have worked with both George Balanchine and Cunningham, founded her company Armitage Gone! Dance, more than three decades ago.
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