The mixture of ballet and art gives birth to an inspiring new show from Mudam

Luchita Hurtado in a still from “One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting” – a film by Tacita Dean

Photo credit: Anouk Antony

Stage lovers will delight in Mudam, which features acclaimed artist Tacita Dean’s sets and costumes designed for the Royal Opera House Project Dante ballet. The fruit of Dean’s labor is beautiful, including music, film and vintage photography.

Dean, – born in Canterbury in 1965 – has made a name for herself using different mediums. For the 2021 ballet on Dante’s Journey to the Underworld, she chose a different one for each act. His huge and immersive pieces depict the different phases of the journey.

Tacita Dean at Mudam earlier in July

Tacita Dean at Mudam earlier in July

Anouk Antoine

“Inferno,” for example, is depicted on a blackboard in chalk, an inverted black-and-white mountain range, annotated with inscriptions. It is his largest such drawing to date. Smaller renderings show vintage photographs recounting the journey, with Hell ranging from “Satan” to “Growing Old.”

“Purgatorio” uses photographs and pencil drawings, large, oddly colored film prints that depict city streets lined with trees and passing cars. The prints are negatives, so the purple flowers turn into “an otherworldly green,” as a description provided at the exhibit puts it.

Music from a room dedicated to “Paradiso” animates the exhibition and adds to the impression of having entered the ballet stage, only the dancers are missing. This is the actual soundtrack to the ballet, which accompanies a 35mm film on the last leg of Dante’s journey.

It is a mesmerizing work, bursting with colors “drawn from the palette of William Blake”, as the curators say. This is the first time the film has been screened outside the ballet. The hallway leading to the entrance and exit of the wing where the exhibit is displayed is adorned with stills from the film: huge colorful orbs that seem to absorb you if you stare at them for too long.

The second part of the exhibition, which continues in the west wing of the museum, offers the viewer pleasant images of clouds on all the walls. These images are small, square in shape, and represent Dean’s joy at seeing the sky in Los Angeles. But while you’ve seen those pink clouds and blue skies replicated online countless times, Dean adds a distinct artistic touch.

“Purgatory”, one of Tacita Dean’s works exhibited at Mudam

Anouk Antoine

Make no mistake: these works are not photographs. The cotton candy clouds are hand drawn lithographs, while the black and white clouds are done in spray chalk, gouache and charcoal.

The center of the gallery shows a conversation between two artists, Luchita Hurtado and Julie Mehretu, which Dean filmed. The 16 mm film, “One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting”, is both intimate and revealing, you can’t do without it. The conversation gives an overview of the works of these two artists, presented alongside the film.

The final work of the entire exhibit is a fantastic old-fashioned projector depicting frescoes by Giotto, which Dean filmed in detail. It’s an exhibition-worthy finale that brings together inspiration, calm, shared knowledge, and community through various mediums.

“I have a very strong feeling that my work is linked to something else inside me that I don’t understand” – a phrase uttered by Luchita Hurtado – lingers in the mind long after leaving the exhibition.

The personal exhibition “Tacita Dean” is at Mudam until February 5, 2023.

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About Ethel Nester

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