Trisha Brown is a polymath—a choreographer, a conceptual artist, a visual artist, and at times, all of those combined. While recognized primarily as a choreographer, she is a rare artist whose work would be at home in a gallery or museum, in an opera house or small black box theater, or outside—on the street, on a pond, or on a tree or building. Her work is like oxygen; in different forms, it can exist pretty much anywhere, and nourishes the mind and soul along the way. As proof, the Whitney Museum will host Seven Works by Trisha Brown from Sept 30-Oct 2, with an emphasis on early task-oriented work. The Whitney first showed Trisha Brown in 1971 in a program called Another Fearless Dance Concert.
This week’s program features works such as Walking on the Wall and her leaning and falling duets, which plainly examine basic laws of physics so commonly taken for granted. Brown’s conceptual streak is reflected in the sound installation, Skymap, which perhaps makes the most cognitive demands on viewers. Another well-known work, Spanish Dance, created on the basic premise of accumulation, never fails to fascinate. What we won’t see much of is Brown’s loose-limbed and -jointed choreography seen in her dance concerts.
Some of Brown’s “Equipment” pieces take place on sets that makes them feel more like playground apparatus, evoking childhood. Floor of the Forest is a slow change routine done on a suspended rope lattice scattered with garments. A number of her early works were done “au naturel” in pre-mall Soho, on rooftops or against outside walls, in addition to indoor performances. A certain highlight will be one of Brown’s renowned alums, Stephen Petronio, performing one of the outdoor works—Man Walking Down the Side of a Building outside, after the Whitney’s indoor performances. Nearly 40 years later, performed at a world-class museum by a dance rock star, I’m guessing it will have lost none of its essential terror or grace. See for yourself—the Whitney will livestream the Sunday performance (check back later if it’s not streaming yet).
Image: Group Primary Accumulation 1, by Agatha Poupeney.