Dance: American Art, 1830’s – 1960’s

March 20 through June 12

The exhibition is organized by the DIA and presents more than 90 paintings, sculptures, photographs and costumes brought together for the first time to celebrate and explain the importance of dance in American culture. Works are from the DIA and other leading American and international museums as well as from private collections.

The exhibition features some of the greatest 19th-century American artists, including John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt; spotlights the superstars of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Aaron Douglas, William Johnson and James VanDerZee, and features artists who shaped the aesthetics of modern dance, including Isamu Noguchi, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.

“Dance has such a rich history in America,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “This exhibition provides an opportunity to see the variety of ways a wide range of artists interpret this important aspect of American culture.”

The artworks carry the theme of dance through diverse segments of American culture, among them sacred dances of indigenous North Americans, the history of African American dance forms; paintings from the turn of the 20th century featuring international female superstars; works by Harlem Renaissance artists who challenged negative stereotypes and sought to create and sustain a vibrant cultural identity; and modern objects that demonstrate a fluid dialogue between visual artists, dancers and choreographers.

Among the works featured are “The Jolly Flatboatmen” by George Caleb Bingham, Sargent’s “La Carmencita,” Homer’s “Summer Night,” Warhol’s “Silver Clouds,” Cassatt’s “Bacchante” and nine watercolors by Diego Rivera.  Other artists in the show include William Merritt Chase, Florine Stettheimer, Thomas Hart Benton and Faith Ringgold.

Five videos in the exhibition highlight the performance aspect of dance and include historic footage and contemporary dancers discussing and demonstrating American ballet, tap, as well as Detroit’s own dance legacies. These include Haleem Rasul and members of Hardcore Detroit; Michigan native Amber Neumann, currently with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago; Russ Tallchief, Taildancer for the Greyhorse District of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma and great-nephew of ballet performer Maria Tallchief; Francesca Harper, a choreographer from New York; and Tommy DeFrantz, professor of Dance and African American Studies at Duke University who served as creative director for the videos.

A richly illustrated catalogue published by the Detroit Institute of Arts is the first major investigation of the visual arts related to American dance, offering an unprecedented interdisciplinary overview of dance-inspired works from 1830 to 1960. The book is edited by Jane Dini, associate curator of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and former assistant curator of American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It features 14 essays by renowned art and dance historians.

The exhibition will travel to the Denver Art Museum, July 10-October 2, 2016 and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Oct. 22, 2016-Jan. 16, 2017.


Image caption: “La Carmencita,” John Singer Sargent, 1890, oil on canvas. Paris, Musée d’Orsay. RF7 46