This research guide supports the study of the late choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings (American, 1944-2015). Cummings was an African American, New York-based artist whose practice deftly moved between postmodern dance, theater, and performance art. She was also deeply engaged with television and video art. Through her unique stop-motion movement vocabulary, which she called "moving pictures," she made dance from the emotional details of daily rituals and intimacy of black life. Her gestures drew from personal memories, community workshops, and archival photographs. In her most well-known work Chicken Soup (1981), Cummings remembered the family kitchen as a basis for her choreography. In 2006, the dance was deemed an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts.
This research guide supports the research project dedicated to Cummings, which has resulted in the exhibition and companion volume titled Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures. The exhibition takes place at Art + Practice in Los Angeles from September 18, 2021- February 19, 2022. Together these resources reflect the work of the GRI’s African American Art History Initiative to reflect a more inclusive American art history.
Included in this guide is a selection of archives, additional primary sources, and secondary sources that demonstrate the multidisciplinary reach of Cummings’ work. Researchers will find resources dedicated to Cummings as well as bibliographies on art, dance, and moving image histories that offer a historiographic approach to Cummings’ art.
This guide can be used for research and curriculum development at the intersections of dance, moving image, and art histories. It also offers points of entry to consider history and theory on African American and gender studies within art production. It draws on the significant holdings of special collections and books within the Getty Library that support the study of performance and video art.
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