For this exhibition, Nick Mauss (b. 1980, New York, NY) explores the history of American modernist ballet, continuing a hybrid mode of working he has pursued for a decade in which the roles of curator, artist, choreographer, scholar, and performer converge. New works by Mauss—ranging from scores for a ballet to scenic design, décor elements, and live performance—will appear alongside pieces from the Whitney’s collection and those of other institutions, including the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library. Central to the exhibition is a ballet conceived by Mauss in close collaboration with dancers, in response to archival material and the constellation of objects in the show.
In the current vogue for contemporary dance in museums, the legacy of ballet remains relatively unexamined. This exhibition will consider the intersections of ballet with the visual arts, theater, fashion, and new representations of the body. Focusing on New York’s role in a transatlantic exchange of ballet and surrealist aesthetics, the show presents a vision of American modernist ballet as an artistic catalyst, filter, and vibrant, shared vocabulary. Through the intertwined languages of ballet, painting, photography, and sculpture, Mauss also mines a pre-queer history within the realm of supposedly straight cultural production of the 1930s and 1940s. The exhibition itself is a hybrid of a historical presentation and an unfolding artistic proposition that forges new modes of attention, viewing, and an engagement with history in the present.
This exhibition is organized by Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, and Elisabeth Sussman, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, with Greta Hartenstein, senior curatorial assistant, and Allie Tepper, curatorial project assistant.