Moving from San Francisco to New York in 1956, Yvonne Rainer studied dance at the Martha Graham School, while learning ballet at Ballet Arts. By the early 1960s, she had participated in Anna Halprin’s workshops, become a protégé of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and was fully immersed in the New York performance scene.
As a founding member of the legendary Judson Dance Theater, she collaborated with many ground-breaking artists of her generation: Robert Rauschenberg, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, Lucinda Childs, Robert Morris, and Carolee Schneemann. Rainer pursued a minimalist aesthetic, using everyday, spare pedestrian movements as seen in her masterwork Trio A (1966). Revolutionary at the time, her approach radically altered the vocabulary of dance and continues to inform contemporary artists working across disciplines today.
In the mid-1960s, Rainer began incorporating short film pieces and narrative into her dances. Her work became increasingly personal and political, and in the early 1970s she began to focus entirely on filmmaking. She went on to direct seven feature-films, each as experimental as her dance pieces, and explored themes such as political power, social exclusion, terrorism, sexuality, and illness. In 1997, retrospectives of her cinematic works were organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York. In 2000, after 25 years of filmmaking, Rainer returned to dance with a newly commissioned work After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, which was recognized with a Bessie Award. Since then, she has choreographed several new dance pieces such as The Concept of Dust, or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move? at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015.
Rainer also developed her writing, releasing her memoir Feelings Are Facts: A Life, published by MIT Press in 2006, and a book of her poetry, Poems, released by Badlands Unlimited in 2012. Currently, she is a contributing writer to Triple Canopy. In 2014, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles presented a major retrospective of Rainer’s dances and films. Rainer is the recipient of numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Rockefeller Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Wexner Prize, and in 2015, the Merce Cunningham Award. She currently lives and works in New York.
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