The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents William Forsythe’s “Choreographic Objects,” opening in May 2019

HOUSTON—April 2019—This summer, William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects transforms the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Cullinan Hall and adjacent galleries into a series of performative spaces welcoming visitors of all ages. Ranging in scale from a monumental, immersive installation to a single object meant to be held in the hand, the works in the exhibition bring together a focused selection of Forsythe’s renowned Choreographic Objects, works conceived to reveal the ways in which we consciously and unconsciously move through space and time, interact with one another, and respond to both the potential and the limits of our own bodies. William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects is the sixth consecutive exhibition in the Museum’s summer series of immersive art installations, and will be on view from May 23 to September 15, 2019.

Internationally acclaimed as one of the foremost choreographers of our time, Forsythe first began his ongoing series of Choreographic Objects in 1991. Blurring the lines between performance, sculpture, video, and installation, Choreographic Objects invites the viewer to connect to the organizing principles of choreography. Forsythe has explained: “Choreography and dance are two different things. . . . Choreography is a way to get things in motion, and artists are always trying to get people to move their minds in new directions.”

“William Forsythe creates experiences that are immediate and fresh,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the MFAH. “We are delighted to present his unexpected and engaging works to our summer audiences, who look forward to the Museum’s annual presentations of immersive contemporary installations year after year.”

“William Forsythe has made vivid the ways in which we navigate the built and natural environments which surround us,” said Alison de Lima Greene, the Isabel Brown Wilson curator of modern and contemporary art at the MFAH. “The Choreographic Objects that make up our presentation are at once playful and profound, revealing that choreography is everywhere.”

Three signature works anchor the Museum’s exhibition: City of Abstracts (2000); Towards the Diagnostic Gaze (2013); and Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2 (2015).

City of Abstracts mirrors the viewer’s passage through space, but also arrests that passage. As visitors approach the interactive video wall, their images are captured on a monumental screen. The more figures move in front of this screen, the more distended their limbs and torso become, inviting group participation as bodies are melded into a dance of stretching and spiraling forms.

Towards the Diagnostic Gaze consists of a feather duster lying on a stone slab with the deceptively simple instruction “Hold the object absolutely still.” Engagement with the object enables the visitor to experience what their bodies are ultimately able and not able to do and finally to consider, “Why?”

Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2 invites visitors to navigate their way through a field of pendulums that swing from the ceiling in a mechanized choreographic pattern. This installation will fill the Museum’s soaring Cullinan Hall, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The movement of the weights is programmed to produce a kinetic and acoustic counterpoint that divides the hall into many unpredictable, changing parts. Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2 challenges visitors’ perceptions and reflexes, leading them into a light and surprising choreography of perpetual avoidance.

About the Artist
William Forsythe (born 1949, New York) trained in classical ballet in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long. He subsequently danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1976. He became the director of the Ballet Frankfurt (1984–2004) and founded and directed The Forsythe Company (2005–15). Examples of Forsythe’s Choreographic Objects have been exhibited widely, at venues including the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern; Paris’s La Villette/Grande Halle; the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which in 2018–19 mounted a comprehensive survey spanning two decades of the artist’s work. Forsythe has received numerous awards and in 2010 was honored with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of nearly 70,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The Museum’s Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986; the Glassell School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2018; and The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates and opened in 2018. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. 

Organization & Funding
William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in cooperation with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

Generous support for this exhibition in Houston is provided by:
Nina and Michael Zilkha
Bettie Cartwright
Wendy and Mavis Kelsey, Jr.
Nena and David Marsh
Shirley E. Rose

Media Contact
Sarah Hobson, publicist | 713.800.5345