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Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures

ISBN: 9781737838807
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Trim: 7.5 x 9.75 inches
Published: 1/1/2022

Gold medal recipient for the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in the Performing Arts category

Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is the first monograph dedicated to the pivotal work of African American choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings. The book accompanies an exhibition of the same name co-organized by the Getty Research Institute and Art + Practice, on view at Art + Practice in Los Angeles from September 18, 2021 through February 19, 2022.

A foundational figure in American dance, Cummings bridged postmodern dance experimentation and Black cultural traditions. Through her unique movement vocabulary, which she called "moving pictures," Cummings combined the visual imagery of photography and the kinetic energy of movement in order to explore the emotional details of daily rituals and the intimacy of Black home life. In her most well-known work Chicken Soup (1981), Cummings remembered the family kitchen as a basis for her choreography; the dance was designated an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006.

This book draws from Cummings's personal archive and includes performance ephemera and numerous images from digitized recordings of Cummings's performances and dance films; newly commissioned essays by Samada Aranke, Thomas F. DeFrantz, and Tara Aisha Willis; remembrances by Marjani Forté-Saunders, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth Streb, Edisa Weeks, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; a 1995 interview with Cummings by Veta Goler; and transcripts from Cummings's appearances at Jacob's Pillow and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Bringing together reprints, an extended biography, a chronology of her work, rarely seen documentation, and new research, this book begins to contextualize Cummings's practice at the intersection of dance, moving image, and art histories.


Cover image by Lois Greenfield; Blondell Cummings, 1983, Photo © Lois Greenfield.

Kristin Juarez is the Research Specialist for the African American Art History Initiative at the Getty Research Institute. In 2019, she completed her doctorate in Moving Image Studies from Georgia State University. Her research on gesture is situated within the discourses of film, dance, and contemporary art practices. She has contributed to exhibitions, screenings, and catalogs on the LA Rebellion filmmakers, the Black Audio Film Collective, Maren Hassinger, Howardena Pindell, Mickalene Thomas, Reggie Wilson, and Okwui Okpokwasili.

Rebecca Peabody is Head of Research Projects and Academic Outreach at the Getty Research Institute, where her research focuses on representations of race, gender, and nationality in twentieth-century American art and culture. Her scholarly publications include Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race (2016), as well as the four edited or co-edited volumes Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation (2021), Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator (2015), Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980 (2011), and Anglo-American Exchange in Postwar Sculpture, 1945- 1975 (2011). She is also the author of the trade book The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Success Stories (2014).

Glenn Phillips is Senior Curator, Head of Exhibitions, and Head of Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Institute, where he specializes in postwar and contemporary art, in particular video and performance. He organized the exhibitions California VideoEvidence of MovementYvonne Rainer: Dances and FilmsIt Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973 (with Rebecca McGrew); Video Art from Latin America (with Elena Shtromberg); and Radical Communication: Japanese Video Art, 1968-1988. He was also a member of the organizational team for Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, and director, with Lauri Firstenberg, of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival. In 2018 he curated, with Philipp Kaiser, the exhibitions Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions and Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us.