Art, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Research Institute

Yvonne Rainer in Her Own Words

An exhibition at the Getty Research Institute features the dances, films, and words of Yvonne Rainer, including fascinating (and funny) excerpts from her diaries. Listen to them here

Most exhibitions feature labels and gallery panels with just enough information to give visitors the basics. For curators, writing these concise gems is no easy feat! Deciding what goes in them can be an art form. In fact, some labels are themselves art.

Yvonne Rainer: Dances and Films at Getty Research Institute gives this approach a twist. While labels written by curator Glenn Phillips guide you through the exhibition, Yvonne Rainer’s writings—quoted extensively throughout both galleries—provide personal context. “She’s always put her life in her work,” says Glenn, who emphasizes that Rainer’s art, while abstract and conceptual, is far from dry or impersonal. “Her words give visitors something that is beautiful, funny, provocative.”

For the exhibition, Glenn also asked Rainer to record selected passages from her diaries, which begin in her teenage years and run well into adulthood. These reveal a different side of the artist, with topics varying from dreams, to arguments with schoolteachers, to thoughts about consumerism while shoe shopping. Nothing is off limits. One diary entry from the 80s, a list of shameful conditions and operations, seems positively Whitmanesque. Whether hilarious, violent, or despairing, there’s always clarity in Rainer’s voice.

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      I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower—and a troop of tidy, happy villages please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”

      Marianne looked with amazement at Edward, with compassion at her sister. Elinor only laughed.

      —Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, published on October 30, 1811

      Wooded Landscape by Paulus Lieder and Landscape with a Bare Tree and a Ploughman by Leon Bonvin, The J. Paul Getty Museum; Fantastic Oak Tree in the Woods, Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, The Getty Research Institute

      10/30/14

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