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Krannert Art Museum opens five exhibitions exploring ways of communicating in a complex world
Jennifer Monson. Photo: Valerie Oliveiro.

CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Dance performances both live and in video installations are being featured this month at Krannert Art Museum – not to be confused with Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The dance exhibitions, called OPENSTUDIO 2, represent the second installment in the art museum’s OPENSTUDIO series, which presents live musical or dance performances in conjunction with artist residencies, intended to forge interdisciplinary learning and cultural exchange.

Four new art exhibitions are also on display at KAM.

University of Illinois dance professor and choreographer Tere O’Connor premieres “Sister,” the latest work in his “Bleed” project, on Sept. 11 and 12 (Wednesday and Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. Earlier this year, O’Connor received a Doris Duke Artist Award worth $275,000. He has previously been named a Guggenheim Fellow, and has received multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. With his New York-based company, Tere O’Connor Dance, he has won three New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards.

Commissioned by KAM, O’Connor’s “Sister” will feature two members of his company, Cynthia Oliver and David Thomson, who have each won numerous honors in the areas of dance, choreography, higher education and arts advocacy. Oliver is a dance professor and University Scholar at the U. of I. Thomson is currently an artist-in-residence at Gibney Dance and Baryshnikov Arts Center.

On Sept. 19 (Thursday), Illinois dance professor Jennifer Monson will present an hour-long solo performance as a component of “Live Dancing Archive.” The piece includes a video installation using footage from Monson’s 2002 trip tracking the migration of osprey from Maine to Venezuela, during which she and three colleagues danced on beaches and in parks along the way. A digital archive of photos, scores and journal entries from that journey is another component of the piece. When Monson, a Guggenheim award winner, premiered “Live Dancing Archive” in February at the Kitchen in New York City, the New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas acknowledged Monson as the dancer who ensured she would never regret choosing to write about dance, and gave “Live Dancing Archive” a resounding endorsement:

“What does it mean when an artist gives everything to pursue an idea to the bitter end? Of course it’s rare, but in this case it’s also a work delivered with supreme elegance.”

The dance performances will occupy KAM’s east gallery, which is the largest gallery on the main floor. But even when it’s not being used for a rehearsal or performance, the space will still be filled with dance, thanks to Professor Renée Wadleigh’s “Dance on Video” installation. A former dancer and teacher with the Paul Taylor Company, Wadleigh has been collecting videos of dance performances for more than three decades. The pieces in this installation illustrate correspondences between developments in contemporary art and dance that took shape in the 1960s and intensified through the 1990s. Wadleigh will give a gallery talk, “The Intersection of Dance and the Visual Arts,” at 5 p.m. on Sept. 9 (Monday), and her installation will be on view through September 22 (Sunday).

Also currently at KAM:

“Return to Sender: Ray Johnson, Robert Warner, and the New York Correspondence School” is uses the ephemera from a “mail art” event that Johnson – a collagist who founded the “New York School of Correspondence” in the late 1950s – staged in Illinois in 1974. Johnson, a contemporary of Andy Warhol, came up with the concept of mail art in when he began mailing letters or objects to artists, writers and celebrities around the world with a request to modify the item and mail it to a second artist, who would modify it and return the item to Johnson. In 1988, he gave Warner – a New York artist, optician and printer – 13 boxes of mail art and other items. For this exhibition, Warner will reinstall Box 13, along with 25 collages Johnson made for gallery exhibitions.

On October 10 (Thursday), KAM will screen a pair of films related to this exhibition: “Ray Johnson Correspondence School,” a campy, unreleased short by John Orlandello documenting a performance and exhibition that Johnson made as an artist-in-residence at Western Illinois University in the early 1970s; and “How to Draw a Bunny,” a 90-minute documentary by John Walter and Andrew Moore that explores Johnson’s life and mysterious death.

A companion exhibition, “Correspondents of Ray Johnson,” shows works from KAM’s permanent collection by artists who participated in Johnson’s mail-art network. This exhibition highlights artists who shared similarities to Johnson’s aesthetic, such as Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, and Karl Wirsum.

“Hello World! or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise” is an installation comprising 5,000 unique video diaries gathered and arranged in a grid with multi-channel, immersive soundscape by the artist Christopher Baker, a scientist-turned-artist whose work has been presented in exhibitions across North America, Europe and the United Kingdom. He is a professor in art and technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Artist Yun-Fei Ji uses traditional Chinese materials such as ink and watercolor on handmade mulberry or xuan paper to addresses the destruction wrought by China’s Three Gorges Dam project. The world’s largest hydroelectric plant, this dam was conceived as a means of achieving green energy production, but it has displaced more than a million people, submerged industrial sites, and wiped out acres of forests and agricultural land. Ji’s images capture the struggle and despair of people forced into poverty and degradation due to the dam, and raise questions about industrial development in the affected communities.

The four visual art exhibitions continue through January 5, 2014.

More information including hours of operation is available on the museum’s website.

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