Barbara Morgan: Dance

Terminal 3

February 2014 - April 2014

"Primarily, I am after that instant of combustion when all the energies of the spirit
are wonderfully coordinated with the action of the body."

–Barbara Morgan

Barbara Morgan: Dance

Photographer Barbara Morgan (1900–1992), born in Buffalo, Kansas, decided at the age of four to become an artist. Soon after her birth, the family moved to California. Morgan studied painting at the University of California, Los Angeles, and taught high school and college art courses at the university after graduation. Through meeting Willard Morgan, who she later married, in 1925, she realized that photography was a potent art form and, with the support of her husband, she began making photographs in 1935.

While traveling throughout the Southwest, she witnessed Navajo and Pueblo Indian dance rituals and was inspired to document her experience. In New York City, Morgan attended a Martha Graham dance performance and commenced an extensive photography project, documenting at least forty established dancers and choreographers of the 1930s and 40s, including Pearl Primus, Doris Humphrey, and José Limón. By utilizing different angles and points of focus, Morgan created her distinctive minimal and dramatic compositions. Throughout her long artistic career, Morgan successfully experimented with photomontage, abstraction, and portraits.

Morgan was a founding member of the Photo League cooperative (1937) and Aperture magazine (1952). Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1988. Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, and the Metropolitan Museum.

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