"Contract and Release" is the second iteration in a developing series of autobiographical examinations of the movement vocabularies that are intrinsic to Brendan Fernandes’s work. The first, "The Master and Form", commissioned by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and presented in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, examined the mastery of balletic form and its relationship to pain and pleasure. In "Contract and Release", Fernandes undermines the traditional dichotomy in which ballet embodies the adherence to rigorous technique while modern dance is viewed as free-form. (The third, opening in 2020 at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, explores "shibari", Japanese rope bondage).

In each one-hour performance of "Contract and Release", three dancers perform various tasks using sculptures as training devices: wooden assembly models of Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures, the artist’s large red "Play Sculpture", and six rocking chairs designed by Fernandes and fabricated by furniture maker Jason Lewis. Inspired by the blade-like (non-rocking) rocking chair that Noguchi made for Graham’s iconic "Appalachian Spring" (1944), Fernandes’s training devices actually rock, creating an endurance test for the dancers as they try to remain balanced while they contract and release their core muscles.

Wearing non-gendered costumes created by Rad Hourani and combining patterns of phrasing established by Fernandes, but without a fixed score, the dancers bring Noguchi and Graham’s joint multidisciplinary legacy into the present, transforming The Noguchi Museum’s galleries into what Noguchi, referring to his sets for Graham, called a space of the mind.

Curated by Ellen Hartwell Alderman and Stephanie Cristello

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