Mar 08, 2011

Robert Whitman, Passport. Rehearsal photo, Hudson River, Beacon, NY,
November 2010. Photo: Ben Bloom.

Dia Art Foundation is pleased to announce the world premiere of Passport, a new theater piece by artist Robert Whitman (American, b. 1935), a pioneer of multimedia installation and performances. The ambitious new work was co-commissioned by Dia and Peak Performances @ Montclair State. It will be performed simultaneously in two locations: outdoors at Riverfront Park, near Dia:Beacon, and indoors on the proscenium stage at the Alexander Kasser Theater, at Montclair State University. Together, the two sites accommodate a combined audience of more than 600. Performances of Passport, which imagines the possibility of being in two places at one time, will take place on Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17, 2011, at 8pm; tickets are available through www.diaart.org.

Passport continues Whitman’s long history of collaborating with engineers and scientists, using technology to create images that incorporate live action, specially built props, sound, video, and other visual media. The artist will call upon salient elements of each venue to create images specific to it: in Beacon, he will incorporate the outdoors into the performance by using the river, trees, wind, and even the sound of a passing Metro-North train; in Montclair, advanced theater technology will produce abruptly changing images, such as that of a performer walking upside-down in midair. Scenes from each venue will be shared with the other through video capture, wireless transmission, and real-time image streaming. Audiences will thus experience both places simultaneously, with the images seamlessly blended into the overall flow of Whitman’s visual and poetic narrative.

Dia’s co-organization of the staging of Passport extends not only its history of commissioning performance work but also its longtime commitment to Whitman’s work. The relationship between the institution and the artist began in 1976, with a retrospective presentation of performances that commenced with the artist’s early theater pieces—including American Moon (1960), Flower (1963), and Prune Flat (1965), and Light Touch (1976). From 2003 to 2004, Dia presented Robert Whitman: Playback, a major retrospective exhibition covering the full spectrum of his work. Playback was on view at Dia:Chelsea (March 2003–January 2004); the Museo Serralves, Porto, Portugal (July–October, 2004); and the Museo Arte Contemporanea, Barcelona, Spain (January–April, 2005). In conjunction with the retrospective, Dia released the publication Robert Whitman: Playback, by editors Lynne Cooke and Karen Kelly with Bettina Funcke. The most comprehensive study of the artist’s oeuvre to date, the book was accompanied by a DVD that featured extensive interviews with the artist and performers, as well as rare archival performance footage.

Tickets and Transportation
Tickets to Riverfront Park, Beacon performances include museum admission and are $25 general admission; $15 students, seniors, and Dia members. Round-trip coach transportation between Manhattan and Beacon is available for an additional $15 per person. Performance and bus tickets can be purchased through www.diaart.org.

Robert Whitman
Born in New York City in 1935, Whitman first studied literature and drama, then visual arts, at Rutgers University. As a member of the vanguard of artists’ theater in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Whitman, together with Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, and Claes Oldenburg, presented performances that combined props, sound, and lights in nontraditional theater spaces throughout lower Manhattan. It was also during the 1960s that he became increasingly interested in creative collaboration with scientists, engineers, and other specialists beyond the realm of the visual arts. In 1966, Whitman, together with Billy Klüver, Robert Rauschenberg, and Fred Waldhauer, founded Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) and participated in 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, a series of performances at the 69th Regiment Armory, in New York City. He also collaborated on the design for the landmark Pepsi Pavilion at Expo 70, in Osaka, Japan (1970), and made a new work for the 1971 Art & Technology Show, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to Dia’s 1976 retrospective of his early performance work, Whitman had solo exhibitions in 1968 at the Jewish Museum, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and was the inaugural artist in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Projects” series, in 1973. In the 1980s, several of his theater works were staged at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1983), and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1987 and 1989). After a long hiatus, he returned to gallery exhibitions with shows at PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York, including Backtrack (1995), Great Lakes (1997), Shading (2004), and Turning (2007). Whitman’s historic work was also included in the exhibitions Les années Pop, at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001); Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964–1977, at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2001–2002); and New Realisms: 1957–1962, at Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid (2010). He has staged more than forty theater and performance pieces since the 1960s and has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Artists Public Service Grant, a Citation of Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a Creative Arts Award Xerox Company Grant.

Dia Art Foundation
A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally renowned for enabling artists’ visions by initiating, supporting, and preserving extraordinary art projects. Dia presents public and education programs, exhibitions, and its collection of works from the 1960s through today at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, the institution’s museum in New York’s Hudson Valley. While developing plans for a new home for its New York City programming, Dia introduces commissions and projects by contemporary artists and parallel education programs at The Hispanic Society of America, in Washington Heights. Additionally, Dia maintains long-term, site-specific projects: Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) (1988), and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996), in Manhattan; The Dan Flavin Art Institute, in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), in Kassel, Germany; and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), in the Great Salt Lake, and De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), in New Mexico. For additional public information, visit www.diaart.org.

Peak Performances @ Montclair State
Peak Performances @ Montclair State University presents new and specially commissioned performances by innovative artists from across the globe. Housed at the University’s Alexander Kasser Theater, the program has presented performances by a diversity of artists, including Bill T. Jones, Fred Hersch, Jan Fabre (Belgium), Trisha Brown Dance Company, Wayne McGregor (UK), Christopher Janney, Susan Marshall, Jim Clayburgh—Joji Inc. (Belgium), Dumb Type (Japan), and, most recently, Robyn Orlin (South Africa).

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518

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