Nick Mauss: Transmissions

Copublished with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 2020
Edited by Karen Kelly and Barbara Schroeder. With texts by Joshua Lubin-Levy, Nick Mauss, Scott Rothkopf, Elisabeth Sussman, and Allie Tepper
Design by Katy Nelson for Joseph Logan Design
192 pages, 240 images, softcover, 11 ¾ x 9 ½ inches
ISBN-13: 978-0-3002468-4-1


This book extends into book form Nick Mauss’s highly acclaimed 2018 exhibition Transmissions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was heralded by the New York Times as “an installation, a collage of several art forms, a revisionist investigation of New York modernism and sexual expression, and an essay in queer theory. . . . The juxtapositions show that Transmissions is a work of creative imagination as much as revelation.” The richly illustrated volume includes never-before published reproductions of documents and artworks by Eugene Berman, Ilse Bing, Paul Cadmus, Maya Deren, Walker Evans, Peter Hujar, George Platt Lynes, Elie Nadelman, Isamu Noguchi, PaJaMa, Dorothea Tanning, Pavel Tchelitchew, Carl Van Vechten, and many more. Photographs by Paula Court and Ken Okiishi conjure the dance that was produced live daily for the exhibition’s duration, and an extensive conversation among the dancers brings rare insight into the process of making performance-based work. The essays consider subjects of ballet and the body, Mauss’s work as artist and exhibition maker, performance and historiography, and dance in museum spaces.

Praise and Press

It seems unlikely that an art show about dance would transition gracefully into a book. But Nick Mauss’s ballet-centric exhibition at the Whitney in 2018 leaps nimbly onto the pages of TRANSMISSIONS, its eponymous companion text. The project was something closer to a curated archive, culled from the dusty files of major museums and libraries, institutional collections, and artists’ trusts, pirouetting around the ballet scene of early avant-garde New York—the 1930s to the ’50s, by the artist’s account. Scores of photographs, magazines, sculptures, drawings, costumes, and other objects show how the performative dance, new to America, percolated through art and media when most mediums were still molten, slowly taking their modernist shapes. Photography, especially, found its footing in this terrain. George Platt Lynes’s silky studio photographs of New York City Ballet dancers, commissioned by the company and retrieved from the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, rejoice at an excuse to study the nude body. The images are full of fantasy and unabashedly queer. (This was decades before Mapplethorpe.) The dancers’ poses echo across ballet program covers and magazine advertisements alike. The Surrealists got the memo, too: In a photograph by Cecil Beaton, View editor Charles Henri Ford strikes the fourth position in a black unitard, adorned with small rubber gloves, designed by Salvador Dalí. Ford’s partner, the painter Pavel Tchelitchew, designed sets, costumes, and “choreographic fantasies”; Isamu Noguchi made ballet props that looked like sculptures, and sculptures that looked like ballerini. PaJaMa—the dancers Margaret Hoening French, Paul Cadmus, and Jared French—made the beaches of Fire Island and Provincetown their stage, balancing on scaffolding and posing with driftwood, purely for pictures circulated among friends. It’s a crucial example: No single art form, Mauss seems to be saying, is ever a solo act.

—Juliana Halpert, The Season’s Outstanding Art Books, Bookforum

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