September 5-7 and 10-12, 2003

Aug 29, 2003

Dia Art Foundation presents "Prune Flat" (1965) and "Light Touch" (1976), two historic theater works by artist Robert Whitman, a leading exponent of performance art in the 1960s and 1970s. The works will be performed at Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, New York, and Dia:Chelsea, in New York City.

The performances of the landmark works are organized in conjunction with "Playback," an exhibition of key works by Whitman that opened at Dia:Chelsea (formerly Dia Center for the Arts) in March 2003. Prior to their presentation at Dia:Chelsea, the pieces will be workshopped at Dia:Beacon, Dia's new museum housing its collection, on September 5-7. They will then be staged at Dia:Chelsea on September 10-12. (See below for times and ticketing information.)

Each devised for a specific space - "Prune Flat" for a narrow stage and "Light Touch" for a truck depot - these vintage works use film in groundbreaking ways, alongside projected forms, generated by cast shadows and slide images. "Prune Flat," the best known and most frequently revived of Whitman's performances, features three female performers dressed in simple white clothing who become human projection screens, onto which their own images appear against a background of urban and landscape footage. Two folding chairs and a light bulb complete the spare mise en scène. The work debuted in December 1965 at the Expanded Cinema Festival at the Film-Makers Cinematheque, in New York City. Exceptionally in Whitman's career, it had an off-Broadway run, in the summer of 1966.

Less well known, "Light Touch" (1976) was commissioned by Dia for "Robert Whitman: Theater Works 1960-1975," a retrospective program of six performances that took place over five weekends in 1976. Originally performed in a truck depot in lower Manhattan, "Light Touch" treats projected images of everyday objects - a paper bag, a cup - as its central protagonists. "Unloaded" from the back of a truck pulled into the loading dock, these illusory objects are then carried away and stacked, followed shortly thereafter by their physical counterparts.

Schedule and Ticketing
The workshop performances at Dia:Beacon, on September 5-7, take place at 4:00 pm daily. They are free with museum admission, but reservations are recommended. Please call (845) 440-0100, extension 44, for tickets.

Performances at Dia:Chelsea, September 10-12, take place at 7:30 pm nightly. Tickets are $20 general admission; $15 students, seniors, and Dia members, and are available by advance reservation. Please call (212) 293-5583 to reserve tickets.

"Playback," the first retrospective exhibition of Whitman's work, opened at Dia:Chelsea on March 6, 2003. The exhibition, which brings together a selection of Whitman's key works from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, includes sculpture incorporating projected film, a laser piece, a multiprojection film installation, and a suite of double-sided drawings. The exhibition will reopen on September 10, and will remain on view through January 11, 2004. Exhibition hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12 noon to 6 pm. Admission is $6 ($3 for students and seniors and free to Dia members).

After its presentation at Dia, "Playback" will travel to Museum of Contemporary Art at the Serralves Foundation, Portugal, in summer 2004, and to the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in fall 2004.

Support for the exhibition has been provided by The National Endowment for the Arts; Altria Group, Inc.; Lannan Foundation; and the members of Dia's Art Council.

"Robert Whitman: Playback," produced in conjunction with the retrospective, is the first major publication devoted to Whitman's work and is the only comprehensive study of his work to date. The book contains essays by Dia's curator Lynne Cooke and art historian David Joselit on Whitman's art of the 1960s; a study of Whitman's suite Dante Drawings, by scholar George Baker; and an analysis of the artist's multiprojection film installation "Spyglass" (1976/2003) by curator and critic Ben Portis. It also includes full documentation of Whitman's principal performances and an extensive chronology and bibliography. A DVD produced by Artpix, a nonprofit organization that integrates contemporary art with new technology, accompanies the publication and includes extensive interviews with the artist and documentary footage of key performances. The hardcover publication is available for $45, from Dia's bookshop at 548 West 22nd Street or online at

Related Programming
Art historian Branden W. Joseph will lecture on Robert Whitman's work on Thursday, October 23, 2003 as part of Dia's Robert Lehman Lectures on Contemporary Art. A second lecture, by artist Allan Ruppersberg, will take place on Thursday, November 20, 2003. All lectures are at 6:30 pm at Dia's exhibition facility at 548 West 22nd Street. Admission is $6; $3 for members, students and seniors. Tickets are available on the day of the lecture only.

Robert Whitman
Born in New York in 1935, Whitman first studied literature and drama, then visual arts, at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Together with Robert Rauschenberg and Billy Klüver, he spearheaded the collaborations among artists, engineers, technicians, and scientists that resulted in the formation of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) and in the legendary "9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering," at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City in 1966. Whitman subsequently devised work for the landmark Pepsi Pavilion at Expo '70, in Osaka, Japan (1970), and for "Art and Technology," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1971). In addition to the retrospective of his performance work at Dia in 1976, he has had solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum, New York (1968), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1968), and was the inaugural artist in the Museum of Modern Art's Projects series (1973). In the 1980s several of Whitman's theater works traveled to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1983), and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1987 and 1989). After a long hiatus, he returned to gallery exhibitions with shows at PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York, in 1995 and 1997. Whitman's historic work was recently included in the exhibitions "Les années Pop," at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001), and "Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964-1977," at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2001-2002). "Ghost," his most recent performance, was staged at PaceWildenstein Gallery in October 2002.

Dia Art Foundation was founded in 1974. A nonprofit institution, Dia plays a vital role among visual arts organizations nationally and internationally by initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects, and by serving as a locus for interdisciplinary art and criticism. Dia presents its permanent collection at Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, New York; exhibitions and public programming at Dia:Chelsea (formerly Dia Center for the Arts), in New York City; and long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and on Long Island.

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, or 212 293 5518

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