On view this month, Luhring Augustine presents A Prune Twin, the gallery’s third solo exhibition with pioneering film and video artist Charles Atlas. The showmarks the debut of the titular piece, a multi-channel installation with sound and video originally commissioned by the Barbican Centre, part of the show Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer. Atlas and Clark were longtime collaborators, and this show marks something of both a tribute and compendium of their work together.
The collaboration between the two artists began in 1984 when the young dancer, Clark, performed in two single-channel films by Atlas: Parafango and Ex-Romance. However, it was not until the groundbreaking Hail the New Puritan in 1986, that the relationship between the two artists was deeply cemented. Originally commissioned as an arts documentary by Channel 4 of the BBC, Hail the New Puritan turned the genre on its head, presenting a highly stylized and fictionalized version of a typical day in Clark’s life – an “anti-documentary”, as Atlas has called it. The two artists also worked closely together on another Channel 4 production, Because We Must (1989), which was full of extreme theatricality in its dance, choreography, scenery, costumes, and directorial position.
In A Prune Twin, Atlas pulls material from these two major films to create an immersive eight-channel installation of sound and moving image. He extends the idea of choreography to camera and sound, flowing across and throughout screens and monitors; in this sense, Atlas choreographs his own past material into a new and compelling dance all of its own. Evident in this work, and many others by Atlas, is his strong affection and attraction to exceptionally creative collaborators, his sensitivity to movement and how to capture it on film, and his novel skills as both a storyteller and observer. Much like MC9, an immersive installation that compiles Atlas’ extensive work with Merce Cunningham, A Prune Twin surrounds the viewer in a beautifully choreographed spectacle. The work captures the spirit and passion of a 35-year collaborative relationship, one that continues to this day – currently realized through the lighting design that Atlas produces for all of Clark’s live performances, an endeavor he has undertaken since the 1980s.
Acting as living archive and expressive, dynamic tribute piece, A Prune Twin is on view through March 11th.
– D. Creahan
Charles Atlas: A Prune Twin [Exhibition Site]