THE CADMUS EXHIBIT is, on the surface, a very simple experiment. A group of multi-hyphenate artists -- composers, visual artists, movement artists, stage directors, and non-traditional writers -- will explore ten paintings by a seminal American painter and bring their subjects, themes, and conflicts into three dimensions for a fully-staged theatrical performance.
But the piece is about much more. It begins with Paul Cadmus, the 20th century American painter whose celebrated body of work brimmed with contradictions. Elegantly garish, brazenly conceptual, and devoted to the methods of the Old Masters, he challenged tradition and technique and honed an egg tempera style uniquely his own. His working-class subjects -- sailors and prostitutes, pimps and sunbathers, models and mannequins -- found themselves in satiric and political works that celebrated race, gender, and a pansexual worldview, free of moral condemnation yet embracing the lascivious thrills of the peeping tom. As art historian Stephen Jenkins put it, Cadmus' work has "a singularly complex style of idealized sexuality and vivid displeasure in justly celebrated paintings."
In Cadmus' paintings, bodies move with a finely attuned physical affectation -- an odd combination of grace and awkwardness. What may appear on first blush to be a well-worn stereotype reveals, under deeper scrutiny, a subversive glance at the physical bearing of individuals in society: the need to conform and to control, the desire to be desired, the inability to connect deeply even as we interact daily. Fascinated with shallow beauty in men and complex coarseness in women, Cadmus found human connection to be both brutishly callous and delicately fragile: an exquisite agony in every flip of the wrist, raised eyebrow, or gallop across the city streets.
Springing from these inspirations into three dimensions, the creative team of THE CADMUS EXHIBIT will find physical and gestural expressions of the painter's signature style and form. The specificity of the painted scene will be extrapolated into larger movement pieces, accompanied by original texts and a completely original soundscape. This performance style, derived from the paintings, will then also be applied to details of Cadmus' life and relationships, with extensive research that discovers unexpected resonance between painting and artist, subject and context. As the 'live' paintings develop, the fictional and historical will be linked and connected so that THE CADMUS EXHIBITION transforms into a complete experience -- not a biographical tribute or a paean, but a living, breathing explication of how one puts the private parts of one's soul on naked public display. Why art is, and how it becomes so.
THE CADMUS EXHIBITION will be created throughout 2006. For more information or to participate, please contact us.
Discover more about Paul Cadmus: