Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is an exhibition on the seminal choreographer and video artist at Art + Practice in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute (GRI). It is the first exhibition and publication presented by the GRI’s African American Art History Initiative and the first museum exhibition of the artist. The exhibition includes performance documentation and interviews, photographs, and more from her lesser known or rarely-seen work.
Cummings was known for her stop-motion movement vocabulary as “moving pictures” where she merged moving images with post-modern and Black dance forms. These dances combined the visual imagery of photography and the dynamism and improvisation of movement as an exploration of intimacy and affect in mundane movement and ritual as well as the intimacy of Black home life.
Cummings was born in Effingham, South Carolina but was raised in Harlem, New York City and began dance study in the New York public schools. She attended New York University’s School of Education, did graduate work in film and photography at Lehman College, and continued serious dance study at the schools of Martha Graham, José Limón, and Alvin Ailey, along with Eleo Pomare, Thelma Hill, and Walter Nicks. She was also deeply influenced by choreographers who worked across mediums, including Meredith Monk, Yvonne Rainer, and Elaine Summers. In 1969, she became a founding member of Monk’s company The House, where she danced for ten years. In 1978 Cummings formed the Cycle Arts Foundation, a discussion/ performance workshop focused on familial issues including menopause, caregiving, rituals of the everyday, and art-making—emphasizing her commitment to relating the arts to everyday life. She toured extensively in the 1980s and 90s, and by the 2000’s she was a fixture of New York City’s downtown dance community and a committed educator. In 2006, her dance Chicken Soup (1981) was deemed an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition runs until February 19, 2022.
Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is co-organized by Art + Practice and the Getty Research Institute, and co-curated by Kristin Juarez, Research Specialist; Rebecca Peabody, Head, Research Projects & Academic Outreach; and Glenn Phillips, Senior Curator, Head of Exhibitions, and Head of Modern & Contemporary Collections, with curatorial and research assistance from Samantha Gregg and Alex Jones.
Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is generously supported by Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Holmes Tuttle, with additional support from Gary and Kathi Cypres, and Michael Rubel and Kristin Rey.
Special acknowledgement is given to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of New York Public Library, and the Blondell Cummings Estate.