Monday, February 21, 2011

Martha Graham vs. Isamu Noguchi

TWO very different artists -- with equally contrasting temperaments -- enjoyed one of the richest collaborations of the 20th century. They were also shaped in some ways by their time in California.

Graham with Bertram Ross
Dance pioneer Martha Graham and sculptor/ designer Isamu Noguchi worked together for more than two decades on about two dozen sets; three of them, including Pulitzer-winning Appalachian Spring, will be staged in Orange County this weekend. HERE is my LA Times piece on these two figures.

These SoCal performances have an additional resonance: Noguchi was born in Los Angeles (and will be the subject of a Laguna Art Museum retrospective opening in June) and Graham spent an important part of her teenage and young adult years in Santa Barbara and L.A. 

Graham talked about the vast expanses of the West as given her ballets a greater sense of space.  And life on the West Coast had a more temperamental effect as well.

A contemplative Noguchi
“My people were strict religionists who felt that dancing was a sin,” she told Dance Magazine. “”They frowned on all worldly pleasures…. But luckily we moved to Santa Barbara, California,” when she was 14. “No child can develop as a real Puritan in a semitropical climate. California swung me in the direction of paganism, though years were to pass before I was fully emancipated.”

And here is a video of Appalachian Spring.

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