Simon Starling “At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation)”

Japan Society Gallery

poster for Simon Starling “At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation)”
[Simon Starling, still from "At Twilight: The Hawk's Dance" (Choreographed by Javier De Frutos in association with Scottish Ballet)" (2016) Courtesy of Simon Starling & The Modern Institute.]

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Simon Starling, still from At Twilight: The Hawk’s Dance (Choreographed by Javier De Frutos in association with Scottish Ballet), 2016. Courtesy of Simon Starling & The Modern Institute.

Japan Society Gallery hosts the solo institutional debut in New York City of Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling with his major new installation, Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation) this fall. The ambitious, new multimedia production by Starling incorporates major Western Modernist as well as classical Japanese artworks, juxtaposing Japan’s traditional, centuries-old and highly ritualize masked, dramatic theater (“noh”) and its influence on the avant garde this century.

The exhibition marks the curatorial debut of Yukie Kamiya, following her appointment as Gallery Director of Japan Society in November 2015. “It’s very special that Japan Society can present Simon’s latest project, given his longstanding commitment to understanding global cultures including Japan. It’s also an honor for me to work with Simon again, after collaborating at the 2014 Yokohama Triennial and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in 2010. Simon is a visionary for how his artworks transcend time and place—and challenge us as the viewer to engage with the politics of our time,” says Ms. Kamiya.

In conceptualizing At Twilight, Starling looked back to the early 20th century and W.B. Yeats’ dance play At the Hawk’s Well for inspiration. Yeats, who never traveled to Japan but was greatly inspired by Japanese noh, wrote the play alongside American poet Ezra Pound, who was an early translator of noh plays into English. First staged in 1916 in London, At the Hawk’s Well helped spark interest in noh and Japanese culture among Western audiences. At Twilight commemorates the centennial of the original performance and weaves together Starling’s research of classical and Modernist artworks with his own contemporary pieces to explore the impact of traditional Japanse art on the 20th-century Western avant garde.

At Twilight reimagines Japan Society’s galleries as an immersive theatrical environment for visitors, including a “forest” of new masks and costumes by Starling (in collaboration with master mask makers Yasuo Michii and Kumi Sakurai); a video reenactment of the climactic Hawk’s Dance from Yeats’ play (choreographed by Javier de Frutos and Scottish Ballet); and archival materials that Starling used as research displayed alongside masterpieces of early 20th-century Modernism. The installation brings to life the surprising personal and professional interconnections that Starling discovered through his research. Key figures who collaborated with Yeats on the 1916 production are represented as noh masks, including Pound, Nancy Cunard, Michio Ito (the Japanese dancer who played the Hawk in the original 1916 performance) and Yeats himself. By incoporating these notables through newly crafted noh masks, modeled after artworks by Constantin Brancusi, Jacob Epstein and Isamu Noguchi, Starling reveals the multiple sources of inspiration in the arts around WWI. One of the exhibition’s highlights is a mask representing Cunard, based on a 1928 abstract sculpted portrait of her by Brancusi.

Simon Starling: At Twilight includes important loans from The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Noguchi Museum (New York), the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York), and the Estate of Constantin Brancusi. At Twilight is organized by Japan Society in collaboration with The Common Guild, Glasgow, Scotland.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a new catalogue is being co-published by the Japan Society, New York; The Common Guild, Glasgow; and Dent-de-Leone, London—and is available beginning October 14. The 80-page hardcover book and full color tabloid includes reproductions of Starling’s new works and installation views, with texts by the artist, Yukie Kamiya (Director, Japan Society Gallery) and Katrina Brown (Director, The Common Guild).

SIMON STARLING (b. 1967 Epsom, England, lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark) emerged on the Glasgow art scene in the early 1990s. Since then, Starling has established himself as one of the leading artists of his generation. The recipient of the 2005 Turner Prize for his outstanding achievements in contemporary art, Starling works in a wide variety of media including film, installation, and photography, to interrogate the histories of art and design, scientific discoveries, and global economic and ecological issues. Represented by Casey Kaplan in New York, Starling’s work has been shown worldwide including in many significant international exhibitions such as the 50th and 53rd Venice Biennales in 2003 and 2009, respectively, and at the Casa Luis Barragan, Mexico City; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Mass MoCA; Tate Britain, London; and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, among others. Starling’s work is in the collections of the world’s leading art institutions, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Tate Britain, London, among many others.



from October 14, 2016 to January 15, 2017


Simon Starling

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