Drawing in Space: On Line Performances at MoMA

Xavier Le Roy. Still from Self Unfinished. 1998. Photo © Katrin Schoof

There’s a long history of dance and performance both inspiring and being influenced by the visual arts. The current MoMA exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, on view on the sixth floor, is full of examples of artists trying to capture dancers’ moving bodies in drawings, paintings and sculpture, as well as documenting them on film. If a line is the trace of a point in motion—an idea at the heart of On Line—then a human figure moving through space can be seen as a drawing in air, an insertion of drawing into the time and three-dimensional space of our lived world.

Ralph Lemon. Come Home Charley Patton from The Geography Trilogy. 2004. Performance view, Krannert Center for Performing Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2004. Photo © 2011 Dan Merlo

Beginning January 12, MoMA will present a four-week program of live dance and performance in the second-floor Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, an extension of the moving lines on the sixth floor into the most public space of the Museum, and one that can be viewed (thanks to the walkways and clerestory windows that overlook the five-story-high Atrium) from multiple vantage points throughout the building.

The program comprises five separate presentations, Performances 11–15 in MoMA’s Performance Exhibition Series. It begins with works by the Trisha Brown Dance Company (January 12–16), including Roof Piece Re-Layed, a work specifically re-imagined for MoMA’s spaces after Brown’s influential 1971 Roof Piece. The following week, Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci (January 17–20) present their simple but utterly mesmerizing work using everyday materials like paper and string, linked more to the tradition of sculpture, painting, and drawing than to performance art. The weekend of January 22 and 23, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker performs the excerpt “Violin Phase” from her 1982 work Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. This iconic work will be performed on a field of sand, allowing the dancer to create a very real drawing on the Atrium’s floor with her body. Ralph Lemon’s appearance at MoMA (January 26–30) is a rare opportunity to see Untitled (2008), an intense duet with his longtime collaborator Okwui Okpokwasili that has been presented only once before. Finally, Xavier Le Roy (February 2–6) presents Self Unfinished (1998) in a performance that tests our perception of the human body (advance ticketing is required for the Le Roy performance–see details).

All performances are included with regular museum admission—for a full schedule of dates and times, please see For a sneak peek of what’s to come, check out this video showing the Trisha Brown Dance Company rehearsing at the Museum.