Dance and performance are embodied practices, intimate and immediate, but with the power to create a shared collective presence between artist and audience. Skiing also sits at the intersection of individual and group experience with a unique marriage of movement and environment. A newly-commissioned art installation for Powder Mountain by the artists Gerard & Kelly titled Relay (Powder Mountain) brings these two disciplines together, making riders more attuned and powerfully connected to their surroundings. Gerard & Kelly have clad the canopy covering the new Sun Tunnel surface lift with a rainbow pattern of spiraling colored light that beginning skiers are magically pulled through on their way up the hill. The experience of the work shifts with the overall light and weather conditions, heightening each rider’s awareness of their environment and creating a playful, uplifting, and inclusive start to their day.
Relay (Powder Mountain), Gerard & Kelly
Gerard & Kelly at the Villa Savoye. Photographed by Barrère & Simon.
Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly have collaborated for nearly two decades on performances, films, installations, and public artworks. With a background in ballet, visual art, and literature, Gerard & Kelly apply conceptual strategies to art and dance. From the casting of their performances to the formal strategies they employ, they aim to create radically inclusive works where everyone can find their place.
Gerard & Kelly, Modern Living, 2016. Performance view: The Glass House, New Canaan, CT, May 2016. Pictured: Morgan Lugo and Lilja Ruriksdottir of L.A. Dance Project. Photo: Max Lakner/BFA.com.
Their long-term project Modern Living revolves around iconic works of domestic architecture as sites for alternative models of living, cohabitating, and being together. Gerard & Kelly’s Modern Living project spans several artworks cross media (performance, video, drawing, sculpture) and multiple architectural sites, beginning with the Schindler House in Los Angeles and Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut and continuing on through Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse apartment complex in Marseille and Eileen Gray’s villa E-1027 House, among other historically-significant homes. Within Gerard & Kelly’s work, these domestic spaces, many of which were experiments the architects built for themselves and their own non-traditional living circumstances, become narrative inspiration, performance site, and film set. They structure space and story, suggesting their own kind of score which Gerard & Kelly use to evolve our understanding of gender, the couple, and shared intimate space.
Gerard & Kelly, Modern Living , 2019. Performance view: Villa Savoye, P oissy. Matthieu Barbin, Julia Eichten, Damontae Hack, Kehari Hutchinson, Emara Neymour - Jackson, Jasmine Sugar. Photo: Martin Argyroglo. Courtesy of the artists and Marian Goodman Gallery. © Adagp Paris, 2023.
While dance is the primary tool Gerard & Kelly use to crack open their chosen site, their work rarely ends in performance. For Bright Hours (2022), Gerard & Kelly engage Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse and the architect’s relationship with Josephine Baker, with whom he had an affair in 1929 on a transatlantic crossing from Sao Paulo to Bordeaux. With scant details in the historical record, they invent a fictionalized narrative that imagines the significant impact on modern architecture and design triggered by this fleeting relationship between a white European architect and a Black American dancer. Architecture bears the traces of both its idealistic intentions and its lived history, and Gerard & Kelly peel back the layers of these sites to, in their own words, “reflect upon the past while re-inventing the world in the present tense.”
For Gerard & Kelly, architecture becomes another medium, like dance and film, that is time-based. An early score titled “Clock” developed as daily practice for the confined, empty space of the studio, and evolved to unpin much of the choreography for the modestly scaled domestic spaces in which Modern Living unfolds. With “Clock,” a dancer creates twelve gestures corresponding to the positions of numbers on the face of a clock (12 is in front of you, 6 is behind, and so on). Personal memories are associated with hours of the day, and a consistent oscillating movement is established in the body which acts as a time signature for their clock. It is a work that, in their words, insists on being present in their here and now. Time and timekeeping in Gerard & Kelly’s work also connects this embodied presence to larger themes of memory, history, and identity.
The Modern Living performances culminate in a sense in Relay, an installation of tinted strips of vinyl customized to the dimensions and distribution of existing windows in the space. Articulating the movement of light as it travels across the floor and walls, Relay transforms a given space into a polychromatic sundial, a machine for keeping time. Each window is assigned a color, corresponding to the palette of monochromatic costumes worn by dancers in performances from Modern Living. In the performances, nine dancers transmit a gestural message throughout the architecture and site. The order of the colors in the installation is the same as that of the monochrome costumes worn by the dancers in the performance. At Powder Mountain, a bespoke installation of Relay has been commissioned for the entire 150-foot span of the canopy covering the Sun Tunnel surface lift—the largest-scale presentation of the work to date.
Installation view: Gerard & Kelly: Ruins , Carré d’Art – Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, October 14, 2022 - March 26, 2023. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.
By registering traces of the Modern Living performances, Relay becomes a moving diagram of the choreographic action. One performance in the series references choreographer and artist Trisha Brown’s 1971 Roof Piece, where dancers each take their turns mimicking short movement sequences performed by another dancer on another rooftop some distance away. Imitation is a basic method of learning for children as well as dancers and a fundamental mode of communication—it is also through initiating movement that most people learn to ski. Relay’s installation on Powder Mountain is further informed by Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973-76), a seminal work of land art created in the Great Basin Desert that uses giant concrete tubes to create a solar observatory, framing the sun as it rises and sets during the summer and winter solstices. Sun Tunnels is both calendar and clock, the tubes punctured by clusters of holes in the shape of constellations that project sunlight across the interior throughout the day.
Artworks can become ways of marking time and measuring our lives. Like the ancient geological forces that slowly formed the mountains surrounding Relay, we are shaped by time. Every relationship has its own clock. The artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres had a formative influence on Gerard & Kelly, and much of his work deals with time and the fleeting nature of existence. In Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991), he pairs two identical store-bought clocks, hung touching side-by-side. The clocks are synchronized at the beginning of the exhibition, and gradually they fall out of rhythm. His writings about the work, and about the nature of time, are imbued with a transcendent hope:
“Don’t be afraid of the clocks, they are our time, the time has been so generous to us. We imprinted time with the sweet taste of victory. We conquered fate by meeting at a certain TIME in a certain space. We are a product of the time, therefore we give back credit where it is due: time. We are synchronized, now forever. I love you.”
-Felix Gonzalez-Torres, from a letter to his lover Ross Laycock accompanying a drawing of the work Perfect Lovers, 1988
About Gerard & Kelly
Brennan Gerard (b. Piqua, OH, 1978) and Ryan Kelly (b. Drums, PA, 1979) were both Van Lier Fellows of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and later each received an Interdisciplinary Studio MFA at UCLA. Their work has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at Carré d'Art - Musée d'art contemporain de Nîmes (2023) and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (2022). Exhibitions and performances of their work have also been held at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2023); MAMCO Genève (2020), MOCA, Los Angeles (2020), Festival d'Automne, Paris (2017 and 2019), The Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2019), Pioneer Works, New York (2018), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016), New Museum, New York (2014), and The Kitchen, New York (2014). Recent group exhibitions include the NGV Triennial, Melbourne (2024), Chicago Architecture Biennial (2017), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014), and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014), among others. Their works are held in the permanent collections of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon; Carré d'Art, Nîmes; and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.