Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done

16 September 2018–3 February 2019

Exhibition Overview


Peter Moore, performance view of Trisha Brown and Steve Paxton in Brown’s Lightfall, Concert of Dance #4, January 30, 1963, photograph.

For a brief period in the early 1960s, a group of choreographers, visual artists, composers, and filmmakers gathered in Judson Memorial Church, a socially engaged Protestant congregation in New York’s Greenwich Village, for a series of workshops that ultimately redefined what counted as dance. The performances that evolved from these workshops incorporated everyday movements—gestures drawn from the street or the home; their structures were based on games, simple tasks, and social dances. Spontaneity and unconventional methods of composition were emphasized. The Judson artists investigated the very fundamentals of choreography, stripping dance of its theatrical conventions, and the result, according to Village Voice critic Jill Johnston, was the most exciting new dance in a generation. Through live performance, film, photography, sculptural objects, musical scores, poetry, and archival materials, Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done traces the history of Judson Dance Theater both in and outside the church, from the workshops that took place there to other spaces around downtown New York.

The program in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium is organized into multiple-week segments, each of which focuses on the work of one artist: Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, David Gordon, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton, and Trisha Brown. Additionally, a video installation of related material, edited by the artist Charles Atlas, will be on view. In the final weeks of the exhibition, Movement Research, an organization with a direct lineage to Judson, will hold classes and workshops.

For this exhibition, filmmaker and video artist Charles Atlas has made an installation of historical moving-image material related to the work of the choreographers featured in the performance program, alternating with a compilation of performance footage from the Judson group’s various members. It includes footage of both individual and group pieces made during the Judson era and after, emphasizing the relationship of the soloist to the ensemble and showing how Judson influenced the later careers of these artists.

(Photo © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Courtesy Paula Cooper, New York)

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