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Article

Sarah Urist Green

(b Kabul, June 5, 1973).

Afghan video and performance artist and photographer, active also in the USA. After fleeing Soviet-occupied Kabul with her family in the late 1980s, Abdul lived as a refugee in Germany and India before moving to Southern California. She received a BA in Political Science and Philosophy at California State University, Fullerton, and an MFA at the University of California, Irvine, in 2000. Abdul first returned to a post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2001, where she encountered a place and people transformed by decades of violence and unrest. Since that time, Abdul has made work in Kabul and Los Angeles, staging herself in performances and creating performance-based video works and photography that explore ideas of home and the interconnection between architecture and identity.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Abdul made emotionally intense performance art informed by that of Yugoslavian artist Marina Abramović and Cuban-born American artist Ana Mendieta. At the time unable to travel to Afghanistan, Abdul created and documented performances in Los Angeles that probed her position as Afghan, female, Muslim, a refugee and a transnational artist. In ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

[Abū’l-Qāsim]

(fl c. 1816).

Persian painter. His only known work is a long composition depicting the Qajar monarch Fath ‛Ali Shah (reg 1797–1834) entertained by female musicians and dancers. The only surviving fragments of it are a painting of the shah (London, B. W. Robinson priv. col.) and three paintings of the entertainers (Tehran, Nigaristan Mus., ex-Amery priv. col.). The paintings of a woman playing a drum and of a woman playing a stringed instrument are signed raqam-i kamtarīn Abū’l-Qāsim (‘painted by the most humble Abu’l-Qasim’) and dated 1816, but the third painting showing a woman dancing is half-length and damaged. All the fragments share the same continuous architectural background and scale (a little less than life-size). Robinson has suggested that this mural might be the one described in the mid-19th century by the traveller Robert Binning, who reported that the house he occupied in Shiraz contained a painting of Fath ‛Ali Shah seated in state attended by ten women. The composition extended around three sides of the room and the figures were almost life-size. This identification suggests that Abu’l-Qasim might have been a native of Shiraz....

Article

V. Rakitin

[Georges] (Pavlovich)

(b Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan, July 23, 1889; d Paris, July 18, 1974).

Russian painter, draughtsman and stage designer. He studied at the University of St Petersburg (later Petrograd) in 1908 and in the private studio of Savely Zeidenberg (1862–1924). In 1909–10 he attended the studio of Yan Tsyonglinsky (1850–1914) in St Petersburg, where he became acquainted with the avant-garde artists Yelena Guro (1877–1913), Mikhail Matyushin and Matvey Vol’demar (1878–1914). In 1911–12 he worked in the studios of Maurice Denis and Félix Vallotton in Paris, then in Switzerland (1913) before returning to St Petersburg. As a painter he was a modernist, and his work developed rapidly towards abstraction, although he did not adhere to any particular branch of it. His works of the time use various devices of stylization and decorativeness, and some of them echo the free associations of Marc Chagall, but fundamentally they remain geometrically based compositions. In 1919–20 he made a series of abstract sculptural assemblages and a great number of abstract collages....

Article

Agung Hujatnikajennong

(b Bandung, May 21, 1961).

Indonesian installation, video and performance artist and writer. Arahmaiani graduated from the Fine Art Department of Bandung Institute of Technology in 1983 and then continued her studies at the Paddington Art School, Sydney (1985–6) before attending the Akademie voor Beeldende Kunst & Vormgeving (AKI), Enschede (1991–2). During the 1980s she was also part of a rebellious young artists’ movement in Indonesia.

Arahmaiani is known for her specific point of view in responding to the domination of academicism in the Indonesian art world, which became her departure point in developing Happenings and performance art during the early 1980s; a boom era of painting and commercialization that occurred as a result of the economic boosting under the Indonesian New Order regime. One of her most important works, Newspaper Man (1981), in which she wrapped her body in newspaper advertisements and walked through the streets and shopping malls of Bandung, stimulated a more vibrant practice and discourse on the use of human body as an art medium in Indonesian art. ...

Article

(b Nagoya, July 6, 1936; d New York, NY, May 18, 2010).

Japanese painter, performance artist, and film maker, active in the USA. He studied medicine and mathematics at Tokyo University (1954–8) and art at the Musashino College of Art in Tokyo, holding his first one-man exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo in 1958 and contributing to the Yomiuri Independent exhibitions from 1958 to 1961. In 1960 he took part in the ‘anti-art’ activities of the Neo-Dadaism Organizers in Tokyo and produced his first Happenings and a series of sculptures entitled Boxes, which consisted of amorphous lumps of cotton wads hardened in cement; many of these were put in coffin-like boxes, though one entitled Foetus was laid on a blanket. In pointing to the sickness of contemporary society, these works caused a great scandal in Tokyo.

In 1961 Arakawa settled in New York, where soon afterwards he addressed himself to the idea of a work being ‘untitled’. In taking as his subject this apparent lack of subject, he emphasized the areas of the picture surface where the subject ‘ought to be’ by means of a few well-placed coloured framing marks, as in ...

Article

Matico Josephson

American multi-ethnic arts organization based in New York’s Chinatown. The Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) and its predecessors, the Asian American Dance Theatre (1974–93) and the Asian Arts Institute (1981–8), emerged from the milieu of the Basement Workshop, the first working group of the Asian American Movement on the East Coast, whose mouthpiece was the journal Bridge (1970–81). After the closing of the Basement Workshop in 1987, the Dance Theatre and the Asian Arts Institute were consolidated as the AAAC.

Directed by Eleanor S. Yung, the Dance Theatre was at the core of the organization’s activities from the 1970s through the early 1990s, performing traditional dances from several Asian cultures alongside modern and postmodern forms. In the early 1980s, the Asian Arts Institute began to hold exhibitions and collect slides of artists’ work and documentation of their activities, working primarily with artists involved in the downtown art scene. Early programs included open studio events for artists working in Chinatown and exhibitions of the work of Arlan Huang (...

Article

M. N. Sokolov

(b Djadjur, Akhuryan district, July 20, 1928; d Erevan, Feb 24, 1975).

Armenian painter and stage designer . He studied at the Institute of Theatre and Art in Erevan (1952–4), as well as at the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) from 1954 to 1960. He benefited from the advice of the Armenian painter, Martiros Saryan, but developed a style of his own, with an intense use of colour similar to that of Fauvism. The influence of Armenian medieval art is strongly apparent in his landscapes, self-portraits and scenes of peasant life, for example Baking Lavash (1972; Erevan, Pict. Gal. Armenia). His work combines an uncommon and expressive richness of colour with a dramatic monumentality of composition. He had a one-man show in Erevan in 1962 and another in Moscow in 1969. In 1972 his studio was burnt down and a large number of his canvases destroyed. He was also a stage designer, producing designs, for example, for sets for Aram Khachaturian’s ballet ...

Article

Ayrtam  

B. Ya. Stavisky

[Aïrtam]

Site in Uzbekistan, on the right bank of the Amu River, 18 km east of Termez. In 1932 the accidental discovery of a stone relief with the busts of three musicians against a background of acanthus leaves (see Central Asia, §I, 3, (ii), (a)) led the following year to the excavation by M. Ye. Masson of a further seven reliefs of the same type. In the 1960s–70s excavations by G. A. Pugachenkova and B. A. Turgunov revealed a settlement that dated from shortly before the time of Christ and flourished during the Kushana period (1st–4th century ad), when it formed an oasis extending 2.5–3.0 km along the river bank without planned layout or defensive wall. Several archaeological sites have been uncovered in the area of the settlement. The largest mound, which occupied the western part of the site, was enclosed by a wall and was probably a fortified citadel or acropolis. Excavations in ...

Article

Armenian, 20th–21st century, male.

Born 23 May 1938, in Kharkiv, Ukraine; died 12 November 2009, in New York City.

Vagrich Bakhchanyan studied with avant-garde painter and designer Vasily Ermilov (1894–1967) at the Kharkov Studio for Decorative Art in the late 1950s. In 1967...

Article

Turkish, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active also active in the USA.

Born 26 April 1957, in Ankara.

Painter, performance artist. Figures.

Nouvelle Figuration.

Bedri Baykam, the son of an MP and an architect, began exhibiting his works at a very early age, taking part in exhibitions in Turkey, Switzerland, France, Rome, London and New York. In ...

Article

Mark Allen Svede

(b Riga, Sept 6, 1943).

Latvian painter, stage designer and graphic designer. After a childhood spent in Siberian exile, he studied decorative art and trained as a painter in the Latvian Art Academy (1963–72), preparing for a career as a stage designer. Stage design and the applied arts were less constrained by Socialist Realist dictates during the 1970s, and he quickly became one of Latvia’s most innovative artists. His fluency with process art and installation, for example, was already evident in his designs for a 1973 Riga production of Žanna d’Arka (Joan of Arc) by Andrej Upīts, the stage metamorphosing from Minimalist cavity to an assemblage in Arte Povera style. Abandoning the theatre in 1987, Blumbergs continued his prolific output. His compositions, sometimes abstract, often figurative and allegorical, are notable within Latvian art for their spare elegance and uncontrived expressiveness, successfully combining grand literary allusion and subtle metaphysical content. His graphic virtuosity earned him a degree of international celebrity rare among his Latvian peers. Exceptional, too, for his political candour, he was a harbinger of ...

Article

Lee Bul  

Joan Kee

(b Yongwol, Kangwon Province, Jan 25, 1964).

Korean mixed media and performance artist. Lee studied sculpture at Hongik University in Seoul. Upon graduation Lee staged performance-based works in venues throughout Seoul and Tokyo during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Many of these performances concerned the subject of the human body and deployed the strategy of masquerade to parody and hyperbolize masculine representations of women. At this time Lee also began creating sculptural installations that marked the beginning of her long-standing use of such non-traditional materials as resin, sequins, foam, and rubber. Such materials were often used for their symbolic associations as well as their formal properties.

From around 1996, Lee moved towards an exploration of the imagined body. The references that Lee drew upon became increasingly abstract, although she consistently maintained her interest in exploring the role of formal qualities, such as colour, scale, and texture, in producing meaning. Lee moved from works such as I Need You/Hydra...

Article

Klaus Ottmann

(b Detroit, MI, May 10, 1932; d Cairo, Egypt, June 23, 1997).

American sculptor, performance artist, and installation artist. Byars spent his formative years in Japan (1958–68) where he learnt to appreciate the ephemeral as a valued quality in art and embrace the ceremonial as a continuing mode in his life and work. He adapted the highly sensual, abstract, and symbolic practices found in Japanese Noh theatre and Shinto rituals to Western science, art, and philosophy. One of his most important works of that period is Untitled Object (Runcible) (1962–4), also known as The Performable Square, a 46 cm cube consisting of 1000 sheets of white flax paper that unfold into a 15×15 m white plane divided by 32 parallel strips connected at the top with paper hinges. It was first exhibited, folded, in 1964 at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, in the centre of the museum floor, placed on a sheet of glass, but not ‘performed’ (i.e. unfolded) until 14 years later, in ...

Article

Chinese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Japan and the USA.

Born 8 December 1957, in Quanzhou City (Fujian Province).

Painter, draughtsman, mixed media, video artist, installation artist, performance artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang trained in stage design at the Shanghai drama institute from 1981 to 1985...

Article

Chinese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Great Britain.

Born 1965, in China.

Performance artist, installation artist.

Cai Yuan immigrated to Great Britain in the 1980s, obtaining art degrees from the Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art in London. He is best known for his partnership with his fellow Chinese artist and émigré Xi Jianjun (also known as JJ Xi) in the performance duo known as Mad for Real. Cai and Xi found fame in ...

Article

Cao Fei  

Chinese, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1978, in Guangzhou, China.

Photographer, performance artist. Video, multimedia.

Cao Fei graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2001, having attended middle school at the same institution four years earlier. She was a co-founder of the partnership Ou Ning + Cao Fei. Her early photography and subsequent interactive sound and video-game environments, or ‘machinima’, emerged from her initial interest in commercial advertising and electronic entertainment videos. Her works often blur reality by involving virtual cosplay figures who imitate manga superhero figures, often artist friends or youths. These performances take place in the urban environment and engage the art world with virtual economies, as well as linking to the rapid modernization and consumerism emerging within China since the turn of the century. She has become known for her ongoing experimental, animated, ethnographic documentary that engages the online world of Second Life to create the virtual RMB City. The video was first shown at the Venice Biennale (China Tracy Pavilion, ...

Article

Aileen June Wang

(b San Leandro, CA, Feb 3, 1972).

American performance and video artist of Chinese ancestry. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1994. She showed her first solo exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, in 1999. Her body of work focused on how people can be deceived, either through sight—what one sees is not necessarily true—or through mainstream assumptions about such topics as Asia, sexuality, and socially accepted behavior. Chang attributed her past stint in a cybersex company as the catalyst for exploring illusion as a theme. She realized that video flattened three-dimensional, live performances into a stream of two-dimensional images, enabling her to engage in visual deception.

Most of Chang’s early works investigated problems of gender and sexuality, using her own body and elements suggesting violence or transgression. The photograph Fountain (1999) depicted her inside a cubicle of a public lavatory, with a urinal visible on the far wall. Wearing a business suit, she knelt on hands and knees, seemingly kissing herself but actually slurping water off a mirror on the floor. The accompanying video focused on Chang’s face and her passionate interaction with her own reflection. While the photograph suggested female humiliation in a male world, the video complicated matters by implying that the act was motivated by narcissism....

Article

R. Nagaswamy

[Cidambara, Chirrambalam (Skt and Tamil: ‘Consciousness as space’)]

Temple site in Tamil Nadu, India, sacred to Shiva in his form as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer. The Nataraja temple occupies an area of about 16 ha and consists of a complex series of walled enclosures containing shrines, halls and gateways built between the 12th and 20th centuries. The temple’s origin is ascribed to the sages Vyagrapada and Patanjali, and it has become associated with Appar and other southern saints. The Chola kings, from whose time the earliest surviving portions belong, were devoted to Nataraja and held their coronation ceremonies in the precinct. The active religious and artistic life of Chidambaram continues to the present day.

At the centre of the Nataraja complex are the Chid Sabha and Kanaka Sabha, two small wooden buildings with hipped gable roofs sheathed in copper. While based on earlier prototypes, these structures probably date to the 17th century. Shiva is worshipped here as Nataraja and as the ...

Article

Indian, 20th – 21 century.

Founded 1992, in New Delhi, India.

Installation, media arts.

Made up of Jeebesh Bagchi (born 1965, male), Monica Narula (born 1969, female), and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (born 1968, male), Raqs is a three-person collective whose works highlight the shift in India, in the early 21st century, towards a critical art practice. They use a wide range of media as their platform, including text, film, photography, installation, digital media, and performance. Conceptually their concerns revolve around history, philosophy, trans-cultural urban formations, curatorial practices, and contemporary politics. One of their earliest initiatives was ...

Article

French, 20th century, male.

Born 1 May 1916, in Hanoi, Vietnam; died 1988.

Painter, engraver (wood/copper), illustrator. Murals, designs for mosaics, stage costumes and sets, posters, comic strips, decorative designs, medals, postage stamps.

After studying at the school of fine arts in Hanoi in 1935...