Review: Storylines, Guggenheim Museum

Storylines at the Guggenheim Museum

Imagine you’re strolling slowly through a field, a lawn, even Central Park. You see two butterflies, dancing with each other, swooping, playful, graceful. You watch as they flirt around a nearby tree, through some low shrubs, around some blossoms. As you slowly stroll, they discovered you and flit their way in your direction. Your strolling slows as they come closer and closer and then you’re surrounded by two dancing butterflies.

For several moments, they dance around you like you’re the flower, a welcome third in their dyad. You become part of their story and they become a part of yours. Your breath and their breath synchronize and then something even more magical happens: three become one. Just for a moment. And then just as spontaneously they move on, encircling another flower, or tree or person, dancing, flying swooping, elegant and free.

That’s the experience I had the other day at the Storylines exhibit now open at the Guggenheim Museum as two dancers, who are part of an art installation within the Storylines exhibit by Gerard & Kelly called Timelining encircled me and included me in their dance. It was thrilling. 

The two couples (one in the left of frame and one in the center of the frame) are all Gerard & Kelly dancers

Here's some basic information about the Storylines from the Guggenheim website:

Bringing together over one hundred works from the Guggenheim’s contemporary collection, Storylines examines the diverse ways in which artists today engage narrative through installation, painting, photography, sculpture, video, and performance. For these artists, storytelling does not necessarily require plots, characters, or settings. Rather, narrative potential lies in everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations. In projects created through extensive research, acts of appropriation, or performance, the artists in Storylines  uncover layers of meaning, turning to individual experience as a means of conveying shared stories, whether real or fictional.
We all have stories. Ones that we tell to ourselves, that we tell to others, ones that we tell about ourselves to others. This exhibit seeks to explore how several artists tell stories in multiple mediums. It’s a thinky museum show; not a romp through rooms upon rooms of pretty pictures from old masters. To be fair, there are pieces that can be simply looked at but mainly this is an interactive show and I’m still interacting with it, at least conceptually, ten days after seeing the press preview.

I don’t have a snappy review of it or even a critique, but I’ve definitely been moved by several of the pieces there and it’s a show whose core concepts around narrative are close to my heart as a writer, artist, improviser and psychotherapist.

Here’s the core of what the exhibit is about should you wish to see it on a visit to New York City this summer and fall. 

The ceiling of the Guggenheim, by Frank Lloyd Wright
A beautiful reading room nook off one of the exhibit floors


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