There's never been a better time to use the phrase "better late than never."
Walker Art Center's ambitious, performance-heavy exhibition "The Paradox of Stillness: Art, Object and Performance" was supposed to open April 18, 2020, but the pandemic forced it to pause. In the process, the exhibition's title — who knew we'd all be in "stillness" for a year? — took on an unintended irony.
The show finally opens Saturday. Balancing the themes of stillness and motion, mortality and aliveness, still life and the living picture, it features 14 live performances across four galleries filled with work by 60 artists.
"This is the first show that will finally have a live component in the galleries after 15 to 16 months in America without that," said curator Vincenzo de Bellis.
"It looks like a claim, but it is more of a fear I have — that people will think we are crazy to do this in May of 2021," he said. "And we probably are a little bit, but this is what the Walker is about."
Despite pandemic challenges, only one performance had to be dropped, bringing the number of performers from 60 to 45.
Having performances "wasn't a given, honestly," de Bellis admitted, but the show wouldn't have worked without them.
There will be three performances every day, but only one at a time in a given space to ensure social distancing. Originally envisioned as running in the same gallery for four hours per day, each performance will be staggered — one for two hours in a gallery, then two hours in another.
"Then there is the go-go dancer. By its nature, it is on and off during the day," de Bellis said, referring to the occasional performance involved in "Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform)" by artist Felix Gonzáles-Torres.
The 100 works in the exhibit span the 20th century to the present, including a 1914-15 Giorgio de Chirico painting and Polish artist Paulina Olowska's 2020 performative sculpture "Grotesque Alphabet (after Roland Topor)."
The show is not organized chronologically, though de Bellis said the first gallery is more art-historical, focused on the beginning of the 20th century, when artists became interested in puppets, dummies, marionettes and other such mechanized objects.
De Bellis, who joined the Walker nearly five years ago, has been thinking about this show since his arrival. The exhibition is not traveling; perhaps its journey into existence took long enough.
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The Paradox of Stillness
When: May 15-Aug. 8. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu., 11-6 Fri.-Sat., 11-5 Sun.
Where: Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls.
Admission: $2-$15, kids under 18 free. Timed tickets required.
Info: walkerart.org or 612-375-7600.