The idea of movement—whether it is the physical movement the artist uses to make a painting, or the sense of movement created in a composition—is an influential element in the work of the Abstract Expressionists. With their shift toward large-scale compositions and painting processes that moved them away from the easel, the Abstract Expressionists’ advances in painting paralleled new and radical changes in movement happening across disciplines and within in a similar time frame.
Modern dance pioneers such as Martha Graham (known for her angular and elegant technique) reflected a similar break with tradition. They spurred discipline-changing innovation within their field. Similar to the Abstract Expressionists whose work commonly dealt with major themes related to the human experience, Graham’s work often focused on human behavior and intense grief. She used motional expression and a sharp, contracted technique to create an avant-garde form of dance based on real life and the events that shaped her world—a revolutionary departure from the perfect lines and traditional themes of classical story ballets.
On July 13th, Gil Boggs, artistic director at Colorado Ballet, in conversation with Clyfford Still Museum director Dean Sobel, will talk about the innovations in movement happening at mid-century and the connections between modern art and modern dance. The discussion will touch on Boggs’ personal stories from his years in the studio with ground-breaking choreographers as a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre in New York, and the history of modern dance legends, such as Martha Graham and her protégés Lester Horton, Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Agnes de Mille, Twyla Tharp, and Paul Taylor.
For previews of work that will be explored during the talk, view examples of Graham’s “Night Journey” and Cunningham’s “Variations V” below.