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Gestures of Life: Martha Graham's Choreographic Legacy

The Libraries' spring 2004 exhibit, Gestures of Life: Martha Graham's Legacy Through the Lens of Barbara Morgan, highlights the collaborative dynamic between modern dance legend Graham and renowned photographer Barbara Brooks Morgan (1900-1992). Graham and Morgan met in 1935, and their subsequent collaboration resulted in iconic images that captured the ephemeral moment of dance performance and rendered it as three-dimensional art. Graham wrote, "To me, Barbara Morgan through her art reveals the inner landscape that is a dancer's world."

American modern dance can be characterized as rebellion against tradition, and Graham (1894-1991), who has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century for her creative influence across the arts disciplines, was one of its supreme mold breakers. Her art was anchored in the belief that movement reveals inner emotion: the passions, the conflicts, and the relentless needs that we recognize, but hesitate to acknowledge. Graham often remarked, "Theater is not a noun, it is a verb!"

The exhibit includes eight Morgan photographs freshly printed from the original negatives in the Barbara Morgan Archives. Five of the eight document Graham's early all-women work, Steps in the Street, which was restaged for Dance Visions 2004 (UCI's annual faculty choreographers' concert) by former Martha Graham Company principal dancer Bonnie Oda Homsey. Graham's larger work Chronicle (1936), which includes Steps, is Graham's manifesto on war. At the time, Irving Kolodin wrote in The New York Sun that "Graham not only draws the picture of war itself, but depicts the desolation of a post-war period, and issues a call to action for the future."

The exhibit also features archival materials assembled from the extensive dance collections in Special Collections and Archives, including additional photographs by Morgan and other notable photographers, programs documenting Graham Company performances, and items revealing Graham's life, including some of the many honors she received during her lifetime.

Homsey's restaging was funded by a grant from the National College Choreography Initiative. The grant also included funds to assist with purchase of the eight master prints from the Morgan Archives. The purchase was completed by the John and Elizabeth Stahr Library Fund, established by the Stahrs in 2002 to enable the Libraries to acquire significant materials for study and research.

For more information about the Libraries' exhibits program contact Jackie Dooley (jmdooley@uci.edu or x44935).

 

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