Opening: September 18, 2021, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures sheds new light on the pivotal work of African American choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings (American, 1944-2015). Through a unique movement vocabulary that she called “moving pictures,” Cummings made dance that combined the visual imagery of photography and the kinetic energy of movement to explore the emotional details of daily rituals, as well as the intimacy of black home life. Her gestures often stemmed from personal memories, community workshops, and photographs. In 1978 Cummings formed the Cycle Arts Foundation, a discussion/performance workshop focused on familial issues including menopause, caregiving, and rituals of the everyday. Cummings is considered a foundational figure in dance for her ability to bridge postmodern dance experimentation and black dance traditions. In her most well-known work Chicken Soup (1981), Cummings remembered the family kitchen as a basis for her choreography. In 2006, the dance was deemed an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Cummings’ career reflects her dynamic interests in movement that bridged post-modern and black dance forms along with moving images. She trained in modern dance traditions in the schools of Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and Alvin Ailey, and studied with Eleo Pomare, Pearl Primus, and Walter Nicks. From 1969-79 she danced with Meredith Monk’s company, The House. In 1982 she was part of Ishmael Houston-Jones’ groundbreaking dance exhibition Parallels, which featured a new generation of black dancers whose conceptual and aesthetic concerns reconsidered the traditions and the future of black dance. That same year she collaborated with sculptor and performance artist Senga Nengudi and musician Yasunao Tone in performance for Just Above Midtown Gallery. Cummings appeared in several experimental moving image works including Yvonne Rainer’s Kristina Talking Pictures (1976), Phillip Mallory Jones’ No Crystal Stair (1977), and Shirley Clarke’s A Visual Diary (1980).
The exhibition draws largely from Cummings’ personal video archive of rarely seen works. Alongside performance documentation, the exhibition will also feature interviews, photographs, and her lesser-known dance films, including Cycles (1978) and In Night Stir (1983). Together they reveal the artist’s commitment to multidisciplinary art-making that often combined dance with elements of theater, text, photography, and the moving image. This is the first museum exhibition and book dedicated to the artist. Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is a collaboration between Art + Practice and the Getty Research Institute’s African American Art History Initiative. Cummings’ video archive is in the special collections of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of New York Public Library.
As part of this exhibition, the Getty Research Institute developed a research guide to support the study of Cummings. To view the guide and its supporting resources, including extensive information on Cummings, notable GRI collections, notable external collections, theory and criticism on performance, moving images and visual art as well as curriculum resources.
If interested in scheduling an educational tour of Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures, please schedule here.
This exhibition is co-organized by Art + Practice and the Getty Research Institute, and co-curated by Kristin Juarez, Research Specialist; Rebecca Peabody, Head, Research Projects & Academic Outreach; and Glenn Phillips, Senior Curator, Head of Exhibitions, and Head of Modern & Contemporary Collections, with curatorial and research assistance from Samantha Gregg and Alex Jones.
Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is generously supported by Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Holmes Tuttle, with additional support from Gary and Kathi Cypres, and Michael Rubel and Kristin Rey.
Special acknowledgement is given to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of New York Public Library and the Blondell Cummings Estate.
Although tickets will not be required for entry, RSVP HERE if you would like a reminder and information about future programs.