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First major retrospective dedicated to the work of Simone Forti opens at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Simone Forti Huddle, 1976. Integral hologram (Multiplex), plexiglass support, polymer protective covering, electric light, wood Produced by Lloyd Cross © Fredrik Nilsen, Courtesy The Box, Los Angeles.

SALZBURG.- The Museum der Moderne Salzburg presents the first major international retrospective dedicated to the work of the influential artist, dancer, and choreographer Simone Forti. As part of the show, live performances will be held at the museum and in the city.

“I am interested in what we know about things through our bodies,” Forti says. With numerous performance pieces, many of which will be staged live, as well as objects, drawings, works with holograms, sound pieces, and videos, the show unfolds a strikingly broad artistic spectrum. “Simone Forti’s creativity finds articulation in an extraordinary artistic freedom and manifold connections she draws across the boundaries of disciplines and genres. Her influence on several generations of artists from the 1960s to the present day is unmistakable,” says Sabine Breitwieser, the director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, who curated this exhibition, which is accompanied by the first extensive catalogue documenting more than fifty years of work by Simone Forti.

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1935, Forti emigrated via Switzerland to the U.S. in 1938; she grew up in Los Angeles, where she now lives again after extended stays in New York and other places. Her thinking was shaped by the liberal atmosphere of the West Coast and, later, by the experimental art scene of downtown New York, where she lived around the time when performance art, process-based work, and minimalism first emerged. In a sustained engagement with kinesthetic awareness and composition, gleaned from her mentors dancers Anna Halprin and John Cage scholar Robert Dunn, Simone Forti dedicated herself to experimentation and improvisation. In the early 1960s, together with dancers including Steve Paxton and Yvonne Rainer, she revolutionized the idea of dance and performance art by introducing movements from everyday life. She collaborated with artists like Dan Graham and Robert Whitman as well as musicians like Charlemagne Palestine, Peter Van Riper, and La Monte Young. In recent years, a growing number of younger artists have sought to work with her, illustrating the eminent significance Forti’s oeuvre has for contemporary art today.

Simone Forti is regarded as a key figure in postmodern dance and pioneer of Minimal art—she personally likes to describe herself as a “movement artist.” In Huddle (1961), one of her most popular works, a group of performers form a sculpture that focuses and expresses their aggregate forces. Among Simone Forti’s best-known works are minimalist objects made of simple materials such as plywood and ropes: the famous Dance Constructions (1960/61), which she first presented in New York—for example, on one occasion, in Yoko Ono’s loft, where she arranged them in the form of a sculpture garden—and which spawned radically new forms of dance. Forti’s examination of the relationship between object and body in its interplay with mental processes and language yielded important contributions on the interface between sculpture and performance art. In the late 1960s—Forti, who lived near the zoo in Rome at the time, was influenced by the writings of the behavioral scientist Konrad Lorenz and others—she began to develop performance pieces based on the movements of animals. In her most recent works, the News Animations, she includes spoken words in her dance, to reflect current events.

The exhibition comprises more than two hundred works—objects, drawings, holograms, sound pieces, photographs, and videos of performances, most of which have never been on public display—and is organized in six divisions, the largest among them being the abovementioned Dance Constructions. In a second section, the artist presents an ensemble she describes as “personal works” (1967) in which she explored the use of the primary colors in painting. The third division includes the Animal Movement Works series (1968–), drawings and performance pieces in which Forti studied the movements of animals, and the Illuminations drawings (1971). Also featured are the performances she staged in events organized by Ursula Krinzinger in Innsbruck and Vienna in the late 1970s—an important and less known chapter in Austrian art history. In the News Animations (1983–), Simone Forti’s œuvre touches on the question of how history can be experienced, which is the focus of a coinciding exhibition at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Art/Histories, on display on level [4] from July 26 until October 26, 2014. An audio/video and reading lounge invites the visitors to immerse themselves in Simone Forti’s art.

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