May 05, 2014

Getty Research Institute Presents Yvonne Rainer: Dances and Films

Media Contact(s):

Amy Hood
310 440-6427
Getty Communications

The exhibition will highlight the artist’s own words along with photos, scores, video footage and a complete retrospective of her films

May 27–October 12, 2014
At the Getty Research Institute, Getty Center


LOS ANGELES— Dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer Yvonne Rainer (American, b. 1934) is one of the most influential artistic figures of the last 50 years, a standout across multiple disciplines: dance, cinema, minimalism, conceptual art, feminist art, and postmodernism.

Drawn largely from Rainer’s archive at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), Yvonne Rainer: Dances and Films, a monographic exhibition on view at the Getty Center from May 27-October 12, 2014, will survey her major dance and performance works through a lively array of photographs, scores, journals, ephemera, and audiovisual presentations, and will present a complete retrospective of the artist’s avant-garde films.

“This exhibition illustrates the importance of artist archives in the GRI’s collection,” said Thomas W. Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute. “Because we have Yvonne Rainer’s complete archive, as well as significant contemporaneous material, we are able to deeply investigate and tell the story of her exceptional creative process.”

The Getty has a long history with Rainer, having presented several performances of hers since 2004. Rainer was an artist in residence as part of the Getty Research Institute’s Scholars Program in 2005. The GRI acquired her archive in 2006 and her 2008 dance work Spiraling Down was commissioned jointly by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, and the World Performance Project at Yale.

Rainer first came to prominence as a leading figure in the Judson Dance Theater movement, a loose collection of dancers and artists whose performances (often held at the Judson Memorial Church in New York City) crossed fluidly between the fields of dance and visual art, creating a striking and intellectualized form of performance that denied the theatricality and emotionalism of modern dance in favor of movements that seemed casual, spare, and cool. Over time, Rainer’s works became increasingly personal and political, and by the early 1970s she had begun to focus on producing experimental feature films, ultimately abandoning choreography in 1975. For the next twenty-five years, Rainer produced an extraordinary series of films that engaged with the most advanced theoretical thinking of the time while also grappling with issues of power, privilege, and inequality. In 2000, Rainer returned to choreography, and has continued to produce provocative new works to the present day.

“I think of Yvonne Rainer foremost as a conceptual artist—and the best of her generation” said Glenn Phillips, exhibition curator and acting head of the department of architecture and contemporary art at the GRI. “For 50 years, Rainer has used time-based mediums— dance, performance, and film— to create resonant works of art that are at once formally radical, political and deeply personal.”

This exhibition surveys Rainer’s career and presents seven of her major dance works from the 1960s and 1970s through photographs, scores, writings, and ephemera. Video footage in the main gallery presents an overview of twelve dances, including her early masterwork Trio A, 1966, as well as recent works such as Spiraling Down.

Rainer’s performances were documented by some of the best photographers of the time—including Peter Moore, Babette Mangolte, and Al Giese—and photography features prominently in the exhibition.

Also on view in the exhibition is a large selection of posters and flyers representing significant projects from throughout Rainer’s career, and her journals document both daily life and working methods from her teenage years forward. An adjacent gallery will feature a complete retrospective of Rainer’s films, including all of her feature films and important shorter works. The films will be run on a constant schedule throughout the exhibition, making it possible for visitors to plan to see specifics films or to simply drop in.

Especially illuminating of Rainer’s artistic practices are her personal notebooks and journal. They contain a mix of working materials such as dance scores, drafts of film scripts, and research notes, as well as frequent accounts of her dreams and other observations about her life and relationships. Rainer often wove autobiographical details into her work, and her journals reveal a close relationship between her daily life and her methods for developing new artworks. For this exhibition, Rainer has read select passages from her notebooks, which can be listened to on headphones in the gallery.

The majority of the wall labels for the exhibition use Rainer’s own words to characterize the artworks and documentation on display, using excerpts from her writing or from interviews with her. For example, in 1974 Rainer wrote about the dance Part of a Sextet (1964) and developing the minimalist style she became known for:

“It was necessary to find a different way to move. I felt I could no longer call on the energy and hard-attack impulses that had characterized my work previously… Slowly the things I made began to go together, along with sudden sharp, hard changes in dynamics. But basically I wanted it to remain undynamic movement, no rhythm, no emphasis, no tension, no relaxation. You just do it, with the coordination of a pro and the non-definition of an amateur.”

Between 1972 and 1996 Rainer produced seven feature films: Lives of Performers (1972), Film About a Woman Who… (1974), Kristina Talking Pictures (1976), Journeys from Berlin/1971 (1980), The Man Who Envied Women (1985), Privilege (1990), and MURDER and murder (1996). Masterpieces of both feminist art and Postmodernism, Rainer’s films freely blend fictional, autobiographical, and documentary narratives into works that are theoretically advanced, powerfully political, and often humorous.

“Words are uttered but not possessed by my performers…If there is a through-line in my films and dances, it might be defined as a radical juxtaposition, or detachment, of movement and speech, text and image, everyday life and history, the absurd and egregious, the personal and political,” Rainer said recently. “Such strategies are on-going, neither provisional nor temporary, or something to ‘get beyond.’ They are a way of thinking about my place in the world and what it means to be a social being.”

Visitors interested in seeing Rainer’s films in their entirety can find a schedule of screening times online at

At top: Yvonne Rainer in Film About a Woman Who… (1974). Copyright Yvonne Rainer. The Getty Research Institute, 2006.M.24
Bottom: Yvonne Rainer at rehearsal for Parts of Some Sextets (1965), New York, 1965. Photo by Al Giese. The Getty Research Institute, 2006.M.24

# # #
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