For his first solo museum exhibition in the United States, Nick Mauss presents Transmissions, a multidisciplinary work exploring the relationship between modernist ballet and the avant-garde visual arts in New York from the 1930s through ’50s. Over the past decade, Mauss has pursued a hybrid mode of working that merges the roles of curator, artist, and scholar. At the Whitney he brings together his own works, alongside historical photographs, sculptures, paintings, drawings, film and video from the Whitney’s holdings and those of other public and private collections—all presented within a layered exhibition design by Mauss that allows for the works to be seen in a new light.
Central to the exhibition is a daily performance by four dancers made in collaboration with Mauss as an interpretative reaction to the artworks and archival materials on display. For Transmissions, Mauss cast dancers whose training includes ballet, though most have continued to practice in more contemporary forms. Their movements incorporate quotidian gestures and procedures from a dancer’s daily practice as well as a choreographed sequence that invokes ballet as it comes into tension with modern and contemporary techniques.
In the current vogue for contemporary dance in museums, the legacy of ballet remains relatively unexamined. This exhibition will consider the intersections of ballet not only with the visual arts but also with theater, fashion, and new representations of the body. The development of modernist ballet in New York in the decades bookending World War II served as an artistic catalyst, filter, and vibrant, shared vocabulary. European surrealist aesthetics and interdisciplinary experimentation bridged artistic and social worlds. Mauss also explores the overt and coded imaging of desire in art and dance of this time, emphasizing pre-queer histories within an exhibition that itself forges new modes of attention and engagement with history in the present.more