Critics’ Picks

Rainer Variations, 2002. Video still.

Rainer Variations, 2002. Video still.

Los Angeles

Yvonne Rainer

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
6522 Hollywood Boulevard
May 6, 2005–August 8, 2004

Since the early '60s, no artist has explored the boundaries of the old chestnut “Art imitates life” more fully than Yvonne Rainer. Unabashed cliché (inspired, according to the artist, by the weepy melodramas of her youth) becomes rich materiality in Film About a Woman Who . . . , 1974, and inflects the extraformal content of dances constructed from “ordinary” movement and loaded with props such as a vacuum cleaner, a toy gun, or American flags. It should be no surprise that much of this important survey exhibition is devoted to ephemera and documentation of Rainer’s enormous contributions to modern dance. Despite the absence of the moving body, Rainer activates the poster, the score, the magazine spread, and the notebook page as portable or reproducible sites for narrative experimentation and politically or socially charged confrontation with the viewer (who is frequently transformed into reader and/or listener). Rainer has always moved fluidly between media—a scene written for a film picks up where narrative dance notation leaves off, for example—and her documentation transcends the marginal status of the “historical curiosity” by providing ample proof of the radical power of the quotidian. Video footage of Continuous Project—Altered Daily, 1970, shows Rainer and dancers in rehearsal, their painstaking performance of ordinary movements gracefully collapsing into their unscripted, everyday gestures. The very word “ordinary” unfolds into an unexpectedly pliable stage for the body politic and bridges past and present in an extraordinary body of work.