Dance-inspired group show is curator Courtenay Finn’s last at Aspen Art Museum | AspenTimes.com

Dance-inspired group show is curator Courtenay Finn’s last at Aspen Art Museum

To see the new show at the Aspen Art Museum, you've got to keep your body moving.

"Lost Without Your Rhythm," the exhibition filling the two street level galleries at the Aspen Art Museum, is inspired by the influential avant-garde Judson Dance Theater. It includes works by Judson members from the 1960s and '70s alongside those by artists who've been using body movement in the decades that followed.

"We wanted to pair a group of people we thought were in conversations, even though they weren't working directly together," curator Courtenay Finn said recently over coffee at the museum cafe.

The exhibition opened Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 24. The pieces in it are radically different formally and aesthetically, but all are interested in the body and how it moves. They range from Judson era pieces like Yvonne Rainer's 1966 film "Hand Movie" and Bruce Nauman's 1974 instructional text work "Body Pressure" alongside young artists like E.J. Hill, who invites viewers to swing on a playground swing and take a staircase over a painted mountain, and Oscar Tuazo, who brings viewers through a revolving door.

Helena Almeida's series of self-portraits from the late 1990s use her body to form a sort of line drawing that rounds a corner and nearly spans two walls.

The playful and interactive elements of "Lost Without Your Rhythm" are sure to make it a popular hit — and an Instagram star — this winter. And the placement on the street level, where passersby on Hyman Avenue can watch people swinging on Hill's swing or contorting themselves to Nauman's instructions, add an additional layer of performance to the viewing experience. That sense of play, the museum hopes, will enrich viewer's lives after they leave the gallery.

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"I'm interested in how the context of a museum, or thinking about things in the context of an art exhibition, might bring some kind of joy to your next swinging experience at the playground," Finn said. "And thinking about this idea that everything can be performance or that we are performing for the artworks as much as they are performing for us."

The concept for this group show, Finn said, came from thinking about how artists in the '60s and '70s redefined dance and brought it into the museum space and how artists today are doing the same thing as museums increasingly embrace performance events (the Aspen Art Museum itself this year hosted movement-based happenings with Cheryl Donegan and Alison Knowles).

"Lost Without Your Rhythm" also is in conversation with two exhibitions now up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The massive exhibit, "The Work is Never Done," traces the history of Judson Dance Theater with film, photography and sculptural work. If the Aspen show's spiritual homage to Judson piques your interest, this grand crash course in the actual workings of the influential company is a perfect complement if you're heading east this winter. The MOMA also is hosting a massive Bruce Nauman retrospective that showcases the dizzyingly wide array of conceptual work he's made over five decades, tracing his envelope-pushing journey since early experimental pieces like the "Body Pressure" piece in the Aspen show.

LAST DANCE

"Lost Without Your Rhythm" is Courtenay Finn's final group show for the museum, capping a five-year run as curator in Aspen.

In January, she'll take over as chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

Finn's curatorial voice has helped define the museum since it moved into its three-story downtown space in 2014. She's crafted shows with a keen sense of playfulness and intellectual rigor.

She oversaw solo exhibitions by the likes of Mickalene Thomas and Yto Barrada and memorable, tightly curated group shows — like "Gravity and Grace," "The Blue of Distance" and "Lost Without Your Rhythm" — built around ideas rather than time periods or geography or identity.

"In group shows you can expose people to a multitude of artists under one theme," she said. "It's like storytelling with objects. It's like having a conversation with people using a variety of practices that hopefully provide different entry points for an audience."

The themes of these group shows cross cultures and transcend time, creating a space where Cy Twombly is thinking about the meaning of the color blue in Rome in 1970 next to Catherine Opie contemplating it while photographing Alaskan glaciers decades later. Or, in the current show, where Yvonne Rainer is thinking about her body as art in a 1966 film alongside new body imprint sculptures made by B. Ingrid Olson a half-century later.

"In the end, maybe people are all thinking about the same things," Finn said. "I think that's comforting."

In Aspen, she's worked closely with museum director Heidi Zuckerman on the vision of the museum in its expanded downtown home. She credited Zuckerman along with the museum's unique education and gallery guide programs for preparing her for the new gig in Cleveland and for shaping her ideas about a museum as an accessible space where people can see their own experience reflected and also find a range of perspectives beyond the familiar.

"That's enriched my curatorial practice and my thinking about how people move physically through a space," she said.

An alum of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the move is something of a homecoming for Finn. Though she finished her day-to-day work in Aspen this month after the "Lost Without Your Rhythm" opening, she'll be back to oversee two more shows here, including a Margaret Kilgallen retrospective that she is bringing to Cleveland after its January-to-June run at the Aspen Art Museum.

"A nice thing about the art world is it's all interconnected," she said. "So it'll be great to be coming back and working with everyone I'm going to miss very much."

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

What: ‘Lost Without Your Rhythm’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Through Feb. 24

More info: aspenartmuseum.org

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