Dance is perhaps the performing art that best lends itself to visual art, what with its images of movement, emotion, stillness, composition and light.
That holds especially true with the work of late choreographer Bruce Wood, who died in May 2014, and had his Bruce Wood Dance Company in Fort Worth from 1997 to 2007 and then the Bruce Wood Dance Project in Dallas from 2010 to the present day.
The visual is the focus of a new exhibition, “Bruce Wood: A Retrospective,” opening this weekend at the Arlington Museum of Art. The exhibit features posters, programs, costumes, props, a video montage, and onstage and backstage photos by Brian Guilliaux, Loli Kantor, Sharen Bradford and Jirard.
“Bruce was in the forefront of innovative marketing in hindsight,” says Gayle Halperin, executive director of Bruce Wood Dance Project and the person who resurrected his company four years after it folded in Fort Worth. “His images are provocative, sexy, and appealing. Bruce drew on his fashion and retail experiences and integrated them with his international dance experience. His philosophy of less is more rings throughout the images.”
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The idea for the exhibition was that of Chris Hightower, executive director of the Arlington Museum of Art. A friend of Wood’s, and a longtime patron of his company in Fort Worth and Dallas, Hightower recognized that the passion and drama in the images of Wood’s dance would fit into a visual art exhibit. He began talking to Wood about it several years ago; after Wood’s untimely death, the conversation continued with Halperin.
“A lot of Bruce’s work is very intricate, and he made it look so elegant,” says Hightower. “That comes across like it’s very simple, but it’s not at all simple. He had a way of conveying human emotion in a very elegant way.”
Among the memorabilia and photos, Halperin says her favorite items are the images of Wood working with the dancers, in rehearsal and backstage.
“It’s so cool to see Bruce Wood Dance Company and Bruce Wood Dance Project dancers — their expressions, mannerisms and relationships are so similar,” says Halperin. “Seeing Bruce hanging out, working, and directing and being in the center of the action in rehearsal, these images capture the essence of these situations.”
The exhibit works nicely into the museum’s mission, which has expanded beyond the Texas contemporary art that was its focus for many years in the eras of directors Joan Davidow and Rachel Bonds. It now has a larger scope, but still brings in locally focused work that is not typical of visual art museums.
Under Hightower’s leadership since 2012, the AMA has brought in exhibits of Rembrandt etchings, a tribute to women in baseball, a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, art of William H. Johnson from the Smithsonian and Ansel Adams photographs. In early 2014, there was also an exhibit of costumes from Texas Ballet Theater and Dance Theatre of Arlington.
“I think it’s a natural fit; even the performing arts are all visual,” says Hightower. “There’s so much that goes into the performing arts that can be very visual, expressing the emotion that the artist is trying to portray.”