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Rashaad Newsome FIVE (The Drawing Center)



The Drawing Center March 6–March 11, 2014 Main Gallery

Rashaad Newsome FIVE (The Drawing Center)

Produced by Joanna Kleinberg Romanow

D R A W I N G P A P E R S 11 2

Introduction by Joanna Kleinberg Romanow Essay by Evan Garza

PLs . 1–8

FIVE (ARTHK), 2012

Introduction Joanna Kleinberg Romanow

The Drawing Center has long been dedicated to exploring both contemporary and historical drawing in its many forms. It also has provided a platform for new scholarship on, and insights into, the past, present, and future of the medium. Our 2013–2014 season introduces The Drawing Center’s Performance Series, a series of three newly commissioned works that articulate important intersections among performance, time-based practices, and visual art. While The Drawing Center always has hosted live performances as accompaniments to its exhibitions and featured work by various performance artists, this new initiative champions performance as a significant component of our programming. Performance Series showcases five leading contemporary practitioners: Susan Hefuna; Luca Veggetti; Rashaad Newsome; Andrea Bowers; and Suzanne Lacy. Their works disabuse us of the conventional assumption that mark-making involves putting pen to paper. Instead, they frame it— and drawing more broadly—as an open-ended act in and through which lines can be embodied and enacted. FIVE (The Drawing Center), 2014, by Rashaad Newsome (b. 1979, New Orleans, Louisiana), is the latest iteration in a series that explores the multi-media artist’s ongoing fascination with vogue— a dance form that evolved in Harlem’s gay ballroom scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Madonna brought vogue into the mainstream in 1990 with her eponymous hit single and its accompanying music video, which featured performances like the ones that inspired the pop icon when she first encountered vogue at New York’s underground LGBT club the Sound Factory.


Newsome’s work draws its name from the form’s five basic moves: hand performance; catwalk; floor performance; dips and spins; and duckwalk. Each is presented by a single dancer dressed in a bright hue chosen by Newsome to symbolize the particular vogue element she showcases. As they traverse the stage in a loose circle, the performers’ movements—by turns improvised and scripted— coalesce in a rhythmic whole. Accompanying the dancers are five musicians who mimic their choreography through a similar combination of pre-determined and extemporaneous improvised passages, with renowned opera singer Stefanos Koroneos and distinguished vogue commentator Kevin Jz Prodigy interjecting throughout. His back to the audience, a laptop computer by his side, Newsome “conducts” the ensemble from the foot of the stage. Characterized by angular and linear body movements and the assumption of a series of rigid poses, vogue was inspired by the stylized self-presentation of fashion models on the catwalk and in the pages of magazines. As Newsome’s work illuminates, it also evokes a number of qualities long associated with the medium of drawing: the latter’s emphasis on repeated gestures; its mapping of time and space. Employing a specially designed motion-tracking software that traces flashes of color in real time, Newsome translates the dancers’ dexterous gestures into colorful line “drawings” that appear on his laptop during the performance via live video feed. “[T]he dancers,” the artist explains, “act as my pen, creating lines, shapes, landscapes, and an array of narratives.” Previously relying on a traditional video camera, for the creation of FIVE (The Drawing Center) Newsome utilizes an Xbox Kinect camera, which will be placed at a strategic location on stage, enabling him to capture more accurately the nuances and trajectories of the dancers’ highly-stylized movements. The resulting images recall modernist abstraction and the physicality of 1950s action painting. Projected on-stage during the performance that generates them, printed as works on paper, the linear abstractions will also serve as the basis for future sculptural work. In addition to Newsome’s new, live commission, The Drawing Center is presenting video documentation of FIVE (ARTHK)—staged at the 2012 Hong Kong International Art Fair—and the images associated with that performance. Given Newsome’s emphasis on improvisation and use of local dancers and musicians, although inter-related,


each iteration of FIVE is unmistakably unique. Equally unique is Newsome’s equation of vogue (now an established dance form) with the visual arts and—above all—the medium of drawing. This performance would not have been possible without the generous support of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Artistic Innovation and Collaboration Program, which supports risk-taking and innovative collaborations in the spirit of Robert Rauschenberg. We are also grateful to Galerie Henrik Springmann for their support. We wish to offer our profuse thanks to Rashaad Newsome for his steadfast commitment to this project and Evan Garza for writing such an insightful essay for this edition of the Drawing Papers. Additional thanks to Ade Allen (dancer), Aaliyah Junius Booker (dancer), Kasandra Ebony (dancer), Justin Khan (dancer), Stefanos Koroneos (vocalist), Alex Malandrino (dancer), Marcus Miller (saxophonist), Jasmine Oty Khan Msporter (dancer), Kevin Jz Prodigy (vocalist), Tim Smith (drummer), Rejean Tornado Veal (dancer), Dan Vosk (guitarist), and Ousmane Wiles (dancer) who performed. The Drawing Center’s staff deserves recognition for their efforts in staging this production. Special thanks to Dan Gillespie, Operations Manager; Molly Gross, Communications Director; Anna Martin, Registrar; Nicole Goldberg, former Deputy Director for External Affairs; Margaret Sundell, Executive Editor; Joanna Ahlberg, Managing Editor; and Peter J. Ahlberg, AHL&CO. The artist would like to thank his brother and inspiration Ousmane Wiles.


PL . 9

Hands, 2013

PL . 10

Catwalk, 2013

PL . 11

Floor Performance, 2013

PL . 12

Spin Dips, 2013

PL . 13

Duck Walking, 2013

Cunt and Composition: Rashaad Newsome’s FIVE Evan Garza


A style of competitive dance that evolved from fashion modeling, the art of voguing was born in Harlem’s queer Black and Latino ballroom scene. Until recently, people of color had little hope of becoming superstar models, especially not underprivileged AfricanAmericans and Latinos (who were fierce nonetheless). So they modeled for judges and competed against one another on the runway for titles at balls held in community centers and halls throughout Harlem, from the 1960s onward. Over time, performances at balls became so intense that, by the 1980s, competitive modeling developed into a codified dance form. Voguing, in effect, models the act of modeling. Dancers stop and pose, as if for a camera in a high fashion shoot, repeating the process again and again with different poses, their collective gestures culminating in a seductive, queer tableau vivant. To vogue is to emulate the quintessence of elegance, to mimic and match the character and caliber of the models within the magazine for which the dance was named. For the Harlem queens who originated the form, to vogue was to show the world you were just as good—and just how good you were. The ballroom scene and the dance form at its center were popularized by Paris is Burning, 1990—the now-legendary documentary by Jennie Livingston—and adapted for mainstream consumption that same year in Madonna’s classic single. The related art of drag, which has reigned in the ball circuit among gays and trans-identifying


PLS . 14–15

Shade Compositions (SFMOMA), 2012

women for more than fifty years is, in a sense, defined by co-optation and sampling.1 So while the language of voguing may have been co-opted by popular culture, from its very inception the dance form has adopted other references and made them its own. CAGE, CUNNINGH A M & COLL AGE

When John Cage composed Credo in Us in 1942 for a dance choreographed by Merce Cunningham and Jean Erdman, he inserted into his score clips of music by other composers, played by phonograph or radio in brief streams at varied intervals. In effect, Cage built a collage of structured sound through appropriation and fragmentation. One finds subtle reverberations of these notions in the work of artist Rashaad Newsome, whose Shade Compositions, 2005–, for example, is performed by an ensemble composed of neither strings nor percussion but women and queer men of color, who enact the vocal signifiers and body language of the stereotypical “black diva” like an orchestral, human beatbox [PLS. 14–15]. Newsome’s work is defined by notions of collage, and the collaborations of Cage and Cunningham are of significant relevance to his recent projects. Consider, for example, their groundbreaking Variations V, 1965, a spectacular, avant-garde achievement in interdisciplinary performance that correlated dance, sound, and video. Activated by the dancers’ passing movements, twelve electronic, anntena-like poles scattered throughout the stage transmitted dancers’ sounds to a mixer, manipulated by Cage and fellow composers David Tudor and Gordon Mumma. Projected film footage by Stan VanDerBeek and distored television images by Nam June Paik washed over the dancers like billowing clouds, just as screeching, beating, howling sounds blanketed their bodies. These visual, aural, and physical collisions predate contemporary understandings of queer potentiality and its relationship to the body, where, rather than being defined by categories of identity or desire, “we” are able “to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present,” 1


In a recent interview, RuPaul Charles was quoted as saying, “Drag is about sampling. It’s sampling the world. So it’s only fair that the rest of the world samples from us.” Michael Brodeur, “‘All Stars’ a victory lap for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” Boston Globe, October 20, 2012.

as the late queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz described.2 Works by Cage and Cunningham like Variations V that depend so highly on chance, interaction, and performance insist on their inherent potentiality; they build a physical, sensorial context for future possibilities. This interdisciplinary, queer, corporeal engagement with sound and movement finds echoes in Newsome’s evolving, performance, FIVE—a kind of vogue femme Variations V, complete with a chanting MC and a “cunt merry-go-round”3 [PL. 16]. WOR K (FIVE )

First presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art for the 2010 Biennial, Newsome’s FIVE combines voguing, Baroque classical music, and ballroom beats, with sensory computer technology that translates dancers’ movements into unique, performed line “drawings.” The work’s title is culled from the five elements that make up vogue femme: hand performance; catwalk; floor performance; dips and spins; and duckwalk. Also included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial were earlier silent videos by Newsome—notably Untitled (New Way), 2009—which served as preliminary investigations for the project and which underscore the artist’s conceptual engagement with collage. Untitled (New Way) features a long, straight-on shot of one of New York’s top New Way voguers, Twiggy Prada, as he dances for the camera in a tiny white room [PL. 17]. His at once soft and rigid movements are mixed with “clicks,” an element of New Way voguing characterized by limb contortions at the joints, with the arms manipulated up over the




In the introduction to his theoretical text Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, José Esteban Muñoz explains, “Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present… Turning to the aesthetic in the case of queerness is nothing like an escape from the social realm, insofar as queer aesthetics map future social relations. Queerness is also a performative because it is not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future. Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.” Cruising Utopia (New York and London: New York University Press, 2009), 1. Newsome’s term for the dance performed in a circle around MC Scanz. “Soft and cunt” is a style of vogue femme marked by a softer, daintier, and often more skillful and exaggeratedly feminine execution.

PL . 16

FIVE (ICA Boston), 2011

head and down behind the back, while the hands remain locked together.4 Prada’s swift, elegant dance is set within a “white cube” that immediately situates voguing as an art form. His performance in Untitled (New Way) is the result of footage from several improvised sessioms that Newsome edited and spliced together. Voguing is a genre in which multiple influences—ballet, modern dance, modeling, mime—are atomized and combined. Newsome’s collaging of Prada’s distinct movements literalizes the pastiche nature inherent to the dance form. Newsome’s silent videos marked the introduction of voguing (both as a dance and a culture) into the contemporary art world. FIVE, however, is an altogether different beast. If Newsome’s Untitled videos are the new kids at the ball, FIVE is the legendary queen for whom they clear the floor. In it, five dancers represent—and perform—each of the five individual elements of vogue femme (each dressed in a different color respectively). Newsome uses a camera and specially designed software to capture the colors in real time and render them as lines in a computer program. The streams of color are then altered by the artist, who digitally controls the thickness of each “stroke,” to form the composition of “drawings” projected onstage. Where Cage and Cunningham’s Variations V featured sound triggered by dance and altered by technology, Newsome’s composition presents drawing created by movement. The dancers are accompanied by a five-person band, playing music whose rhythmic structure is rooted in the vogue house beat, MC’d by New York’s Kevin JZ Prodigy, and complemented by a Baroque opera performed by Grammy-winning baritone Stefanos Koroneos. Each instrument corresponds to a given dancer. Performances by the musicians are largely improvised and respond musically to what the dancers are doing physically, building into a crescendo of sound and movement as the dancers enter the floor, one after the other. Unpredictability is a central element of the work, influenced greatly by Cage and Cunningham’s chance performances.



Clicking, as defined by Aaron Enigma in VOGUE-CABULARY, Underground Culture of BALLS, http://balls.houseofenigma.com/vogcab_frames.html.

FIVE’s fortuitous nature proved to be an unexpected challenge for the members of the Hong Kong student ensemble that Newsome engaged to perform the musical accompaniment for Chinese audiences at ART HK 2012 (The 2012 Hong Kong International Art Fair). Trained to hit each note with flawless precision, the student musicians were terrifically unfamiliar with the notion of improvisation. So the artist went back to his roots: collage. Echoing the composite structure of the early Untitled videos, Newsome took samples of traditional Chinese music and blended them together in unexpected ways to create a score for the musicians that encouraged them to stray from the paragon of perfect execution. The result is the fiercest—and most innovative—form of Chinese jazz imaginable. FIVE (ARTHK) also introduced a host of new instruments to the work’s arsenal: dizi for hand performance; an erhu for catwalk; yangqin for floor performance; and Chinese drums for duckwalk. The five images on paper that line the walls of The Drawing Center are two-dimensional iterations of the computer-generated “drawings” garnered from the dancers’ movements in Hong Kong [PLS. 9–13]. The version of FIVE to take place at The Drawing Center will utilize an Xbox Kinect camera to localize the movements of each dancer with greater accuracy, enabling the creation of spatialized computer-based renderings, which will, in turn, facilitate the subsequent creation of objects. But although three-dimensional, these are best described not as sculptures but as drawings reified in space. Like the voguing on which it is based, FIVE contiues to reinvent itself and radiate into new forms. FIVE challenges the ephemeral nature of performance, and it challenges it to a battle. Here, the performance is the documentation and vice versa, each circling the other hoping for the last word. The works produced by FIVE are not just drawings, they’re events— and they’re legendary.


PL . 17

Untitled (New Way), 2009

PL . 18

Max/Msp & Jitter Patch for FIVE, 2010

PL . 19

Max/Msp & Jitter Patch for FIVE, 2014


A lso pict u red ( not in e x hi b tion )

FIVE (The Drawing Center), 2014

P L S . 14 –15

Multi-media performance

Shade Compositions (SFMOMA), 2012

Duration: 20 minutes

Video stills from the live performance

Courtesy of the artist

Images courtesy of the artist

P L S . 1– 8

P L . 16

FIVE (ARTHK), 2012

FIVE (ICA Boston), 2011

Video from the live performance

Video still from the live performance

Duration: 12:58 minutes

Image courtesy of the artist

PL. 9

P L . 17

Hands, 2013

Untitled (New Way), 2009

Digital C-print

Installation view, 2010 Whitney Biennial

28 x 43 inches

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Dr. Michael I. Jacobs

P L . 10

Image courtesy of the artist

Catwalk, 2013

Photograph by Bill Orcutt

Digital C-print 28 x 43 inches

P L . 18

Max/Msp & Jitter Patch for FIVE, 2010 P L . 11


Floor Performance, 2013

Image courtesy of the artist

Digital C-print 28 x 43 inches

P L . 19

Max/Msp & Jitter Patch for FIVE, 2014 P L . 12


Spin Dips, 2013

Image courtesy of the artist

Digital C-print 28 x 43 inches P L . 13

Duck Walking, 2013 Digital C-print 28 x 43 inches Video and drawing works courtesy of the artist and Galerie Henrik Sprigmann.



Joanna Kleinberg Romanow is Assistant Curator at The Drawing Center. Evan Garza is an independent curator and Co-Founder and Assistant Director of Fire Island Artist Residency, the first residency program in the United States exclusively for LGBTQ artists. He has written on contemporary art for Artforum.com, ART PAPERS, Flash Art, the Huffington Post, and several catalogues and museum publications. He currently serves as Exhibitions and Public Programs Coordinator for The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.




Rashaad Newsome: FIVE (The Drawing Center)

Frances Beatty Adler

is made possible through the generous support of

Eric Rudin

the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Artistic

Jane Dresner Sadaka

Innovation and Collaboration Program, which supports risk-taking and innovative collaborations


in the spirit of Robert Rauschenberg.

Stacey Goergen Secretary Dita Amory

Additional support provided by Galerie Henrik Springmann.

Brad Cloepfil Anita F. Contini Steven Holl Rhiannon Kubicka David Lang Merrill Mahan Iris Z. Marden Nancy Poses Pat Steir Barbara Toll Isabel Stainow Wilcox Candace Worth Emeritus Melva Bucksbaum Frances Dittmer Bruce W. Ferguson Michael Lynne George Negroponte Elizabeth Rohatyn Jeanne C. Thayer Executive Director Brett Littman


This is number 112 of the Drawing Papers, a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. Margaret Sundell Executive Editor Joanna Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by Peter J. Ahlberg / AHL&CO This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by BookMobile in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Drawing Papers 111 Deborah Grant: Christ You Know it Ain’t Easy!! Drawing Papers 110 Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity Drawing Papers 109 Dickinson/Walser: Pencil Sketches Drawing Papers 108 Drawing Time, Reading Time Drawing Papers 107 Alexis Rockman: Drawings from Life of Pi Drawing Papers 106 Susan Hefuna and Luca Veggetti: NOTATIONOTATIONS Drawing Papers 105 Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper 1962–2010 Drawing Papers 104 Giosetta Fioroni: L’Argento Drawing Papers 103 Igancio Uriarte: Line of Work Drawing Papers 102 Alexandre Singh: The Pledge Drawing Papers 101 José Antonio Suárez Londoño: The Yearbooks Drawing Papers 100 Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios Drawing Papers 99 Sean Scully: Change and Horizontals Drawing Papers 98 Drawing and its Double: Selections from the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica Drawing Papers 97 Dr. Lakra Drawing Papers 96 Drawn from Photography Drawing Papers 95 Day Job Drawing Papers 94 Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway Drawing Papers 93 Claudia Wieser: Poems of the Right Angle Drawing Papers 92 Gerhard Richter: “Lines which do not exist” Drawing Papers 91 Dorothea Tanning: Early Designs for the Stage Drawing Papers 90 Leon Golub: Live & Die Like a Lion? Drawing Papers 89 Selections Spring 2010: Sea Marks Drawing Papers 88 Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary Drawing Papers 87 Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World Drawing Papers 86 Unica Zurn: Dark Spring Drawing Papers 85 Sun Xun: Shock of Time Drawing Papers 84 Selections Spring 2009: Apparently Invisible Drawing Papers 83 M/M: Just Like an Ant Walking on the Edge of the Visible Drawing Papers 82 Matt Mullican: A Drawing Translates the Way of Thinking Drawing Papers 81 Greta Magnusson Grossman: Furniture and Lighting Drawing Papers 80 Kathleen Henderson: What if I Could Draw a Bird that Could Change the World? Drawing Papers 79 Rirkrit Tiravanija: Demonstration Drawings

T O O R D E R , A N D F O R A C O M P L E T E C ATA L O G U E O F PA S T E D I T I O N S , V I S I T D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G


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Essay by Evan Garza

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$18.00 US

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Profile for The Drawing Center

Rashaad Newsome: FIVE (The Drawing Center)  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers volume 112 featuring an introduction by Joanna Kleinberg Romanow and an essay by Evan Garza.

Rashaad Newsome: FIVE (The Drawing Center)  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers volume 112 featuring an introduction by Joanna Kleinberg Romanow and an essay by Evan Garza.