Date 15.01.2023 - 02.04.2023
Curator Rebecca Lowery, Alex Sloane, Jason Underhill
Venue The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles
“Starting with her early experimental works from the 1960s, Simone Forti has proved to be a profoundly influential artist who has shaped and then continually reshaped our collective ideas around the relationship between the visual arts and dance,” said Johanna Burton, The Maurice Marciano Director of MOCA. “MOCA has been fortunate to have enjoyed a long relationship with Forti, and it is our great honor to be able to present this exploration of her storied career at this epic moment in her life and work. In the spirit of the artist’s practice, the exhibition will be layered, multidisciplinary, and accessible, and filled with beauty, rigor, feeling, and wit.”
While she is widely celebrated as a choreographer and dancer, Forti views herself more broadly as an artist who works with movement, using her own body alongside other materials and media. Simone Forti explores the many ways in which her practice addresses movement through archival documentation, sculpture, drawings, and technology, highlighting projects such as her experimental holograms, drawings and videos from her Illuminations and News Animation series, and drawings and photographs from her lifelong exploration of animal movement and the natural world. Crucially, MOCA will present weekly live performances of three works from her seminal Dance Constructions (1960-61) in the exhibition space.
First performed at Reuben Gallery in 1960, with further constructions premiered at Yoko Ono’s loft the following spring, Dance Constructions are a suite of nine works based on a set of task-based instructions, sometimes undertaken using structures made of simple materials such as wood and rope. With the simple props and pedestrian movement, Forti referenced Minimalism—her then-husband artist Robert Morris was a collaborator on the built structures associated with Dance Constructions—and like her avant-garde peers who included Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, and Yvonne Rainer, rejected the virtuosity synonymous with much contemporary dance at the time. Adamantly shunning traditional concepts of dance and dancers and embracing everyday movement—climbing, walking, standing—and performers without formal training, Dance Constructions and Forti’s wider body of performances were pivotal to the development of postmodern dance. Central to her legacy, these works have reframed the dialogue between visual art and contemporary dance, significantly influencing both artists of the time and younger generations of artists including Jérôme Bel, Moriah Evans, Gerard & Kelly, and Will Rawls.
Three Dance Constructions are included in MOCA’s exhibition and performed by a cast of Los Angeles-based artists and creatives, many of whom have taken classes and workshops with Forti. These are sculptural performances that evolve over time as performers with diverse bodies and different experiences take on the work. In Slant Board (1961), performers use ropes to move side to side and up and down across a large plywood ramp. In Huddle (1961), performers knot themselves together in a single sculptural form as, one by one, each performer climbs wordlessly up and over the group. For Hangers (1961), the performers perch in the loops of rope suspended from the ceiling while another performer moves between them.
“Forti’s performances are living sculptures. The Dance Constructions are meant to be viewed in the round with Forti drawing attention to the weight and mass of bodies in motion,” said Alex Sloane, MOCA Associate Curator and co- curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition is a full view of Forti’s extraordinary career and her continued exploration of the body in movement, from archival performance documentation, to drawings, video, and holograms, all of which can now be seen in relation to her radical live performances.”
Over the years, Forti has returned continually to improvisation, including extensive collaborations with musicians like Charlemagne Palestine and Peter Van Riper. Simone Forti charts many of these crucial collaborations, underscoring the artist’s longstanding commitment to creativity as a shared process and tracing her large network of Los Angeles-based partnerships with an intergenerational range of artists. Also included in the exhibition are three of the extraordinary holograms Forti made in collaboration with Lloyd G. Cross in the 1970s.
“Forti’s medium is movement,” said Rebecca Lowery, MOCA Associate Curator and co-curator of the exhibition. “In addition to being a significant survey of an exceptionally influential artist, this exhibition is an exploration of how movement can find its way into all kinds of media, even those we think of as still. Forti finds dynamism in the smallest physical gestures and in the human form, but also in drawing, photography, found objects, and the natural world.”