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Rites of Spring Evidence of Feeling: The Figure in the Abstract Dean Daderko

L

e Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) premiered at the Théâtre des ChampsÉlysées in Paris during the 1913 season of Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. With music by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, and set designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich, the ballet proved so jarring that its opening-night audience rioted. Stravinsky said the work was a paean to the mystery and surge of energy that come when the earth awakens from its winter slumber, but audience members were less sympathetic to his vision. They had seen what is reputed to be one of the first modern ballets, but without entry or reference points by which to understand it, they widely rejected it. Rites of Spring draws inspiration from its theatrical namesake in a variety of ways: it proposes new visual experiences; it’s structured around bodies, bodily presence, and gestures; it’s sexy and celebrates primal energy; and it appreciates the productive tension that can be established by situating the familiar in the unfamiliar, and vice versa. Its installation below ground level in CAMH’s Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery seems to underline its relationship to terrestrial awakening. The presence of a figure in a composition communicates a sense of relative scale. Moreover, as a threshold between thought, feeling, and external experience, our bodies are units of measure for psychological as well as physical perceptions; we often imagine ourselves in someone else’s position. The dance between abstraction and figuration is the beating heart of artistic investigations by many modernist artists.

Pages 208—9: Rites of Spring, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2013—14 (installation view) Page 210: Brenna Youngblood, 3 dollar bill (dirty money), 2013 (detail) 210

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Outside the Lines  

Presented on the occasion of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's 65th anniversary, Outside the Lines is a six-part exhibition series conc...

Outside the Lines  

Presented on the occasion of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's 65th anniversary, Outside the Lines is a six-part exhibition series conc...

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