“Repeating is the whole of living and by repeating comes understanding,” writes Gertrude Stein in The Making of Americans (1925). Works in this group exhibition, organized by Penn students in the Spiegel Contemporary Art Freshman Seminar, test this maxim through drawing, dance, film, and sound. The exhibition opens April 24 in ICA’s Project Space.
In Glenn Ligon’s coal dust and oil stick drawings, the artist repeats the words “negro sunshine” until they erode into abstraction. This phrase is appropriated from a Gertrude Stein story, “Melanctha”: “Rose laughed when she was happy but she had not the wide, abandoned laughter that makes the warm broad glow of negro sunshine.” The exhibition takes its name from the story’s subtitle, which has receded over time: Each One As She May. Ligon’s piece asks many of the same questions as Stein. In particular: Does repetition lead to loss of meaning or greater understanding?
Steve Reich’s aural composition “Come Out” (1966) samples the voice of Daniel Hamm, one of the “Harlem Six” who was sentenced to life in prison after being wrongly convicted of a murder that occurred during a 1964 robbing in Harlem, New York. Reich captures the phase shifting of two magnetic tape loops that slide out of sync until the speech becomes unrecognizable, a cycle of infinite re-combinations that blur into incomprehensible sounds before returning to intelligibility. His work seems to ask: When does speech become simply noise? Are the two mutually exclusive? Where do dialogue, process, and experience intersect?
Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker’s dance choreography set to Steve Reich’s work—captured in Thierry De Mey’s hypnotic film Fase (2002)—distills the composer’s pieces through movement, anchoring the sound in human bodies. Thus, language crosses boundaries, taking on a physical presence as it influences the motions of the dancers. Like the other artists in the exhibition, De Keersmaeker also experiments with repetition, the dancers slipping in and out of synced, identical movements.
Organized by curators from the Spiegel Contemporary Art Freshman Seminar.
Glenn LigonSteve ReichChloe KaufmanAndrew McHargVincent SnaggGwendolyn Dubois ShawIris-Louise WilliamsonAnna Teresa De KeersmaekerThierry De Mey