What remains after performances is a long-standing question for artists and institutions. Add to the picture the frequent shutdowns of an ongoing pandemic on physical engagement, and connecting a large ephemeral art audience becomes very difficult. Chicago-based multimedia artist Brendan Fernandes was fortunate enough to complete his exhibit Contract and release at the Noguchi Museum in Queens on March 8, 2020, just a week before the abrupt shutdown of culture in New York, as well as the rest of the world. Documenting the performative nature of the show was all the more pressing for the artist, who collaborates with modern dancers to activate his sculptures inspired by minimalism and BDSM.
Fernandes recently published his book Reform with Milanese publisher Skira Editore to chronicle his Noguchi museum project, as well as The master and the formwhich was originally created for the Graham Foundation in Chicago in 2018 and then staged at the Whitney Biennial in 2019.
“As an artist who works in performance, archiving and disseminating the work in book form is very important,” said Fernandes. The arts journal during the recent launch of the title at the Noguchi Museum, in the middle of the heavy sculptures in wood and bronze of the Japanese-American master.
Essays by ballet scholar Juliet Bellow, queer art historian Andrew Campbell and senior museum curator Dakin Hart contextualize the subtle yet determined gestures of the show’s six dancers who engaged with the chair sculptures rocking chair by Fernandes. Also inspired by ballet training machines, they paid homage to Noguchi’s design for Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring dance composition from 1944.
Raised in a Kenyan-Indian family between Nairobi and Canada, Fernandes trained as a child to become a ballet dancer. Although he eventually left the stage professionally due to injury, the artist formed a special relationship with the practice by commissioning other dancers and dissecting the ballet’s depictions of race, sexuality and dynamics. power. His sculptures mix the demure language of minimalism with the naughty invitation of BDSM gear and ballet gadgets.
Long after leaving ballet slippers and leotards behind, the artist still respects the infamous discipline of ballet in her art. Fernandes recently inaugurated the duo exhibition Choreopolitics at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art with movement artist Nibia Pastrana Santiago. “We’re both interested in dance as a form of protest and a space for social change,” says Fernandes, who features a video about the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse gay club in 2016.
In September, Fernandes will stage a three-day performance series at the Munch Museum in Oslo, followed by the unveiling of a mural he created for the University at Buffalo’s Capen Hall with the phrase “together , we are” accompanied by pink bursts. abstractions that imitate movement. Later in the fall, his prints Like a III, VII and IX (2017) will be presented in the collective exhibition of the National Gallery of Canada Movement: expressive bodies in art. The institution recently acquired the series.
Before the end of the year, Fernandes will exhibit his first glass sculptures in the form of perfume bottles as part of the installation inspired by curator Brian Gorman’s beauty bar in downtown New York and will travel to Denmark to a sound composition with police sirens for Danish national radio. .
The first semester of 2023 will coincide with another project, at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, where he will intervene in an exhibition of works by folk artist and sculptor William Edmondson with modern dance. There is also more print media on the horizon. Fernandes puts the finishing touches Inactiona catalog study of his eponymous installation and performance, and a film titled Free fall for the camera, which were exhibited together at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and later at the Richmond Art Gallery in British Columbia. The publication will combine essays, photographs, a dance score and architectural drawings, as well as interviews with the artist and participating dancers.
“Being a dancer means devoting yourself to the art, and my work ethic today as an artist comes from my previous experience as a ballet dancer,” he says. “I’m a restless creature who needs to reinvent myself and find purpose.”
- Brendan Fernandes, Re/Form, edited by Alhena Katsof with texts by Juliet Bellow, Andrew Campbell, Hendrik Folkerts, Dakin Hart, Sarah Herda, Thomas Kelley, Brett Littman; Skira Editore, 135pp, $45 (hb)