Michael Craig-Martin, ‘Exquisite Corpse 87’, ca. 2011, Mana Contemporary


More than 180 internationally recognized visual artists, architects, designers and photographers participated in the Armitage Gone! Dance Exquisite Corpse Project, beginning in 2011. The artists created one hundred and thirty nine artworks to benefit Armitage Gone! Dance, an internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company under the direction of renowned choreographer Karole Armitage. Using the 1920's surrealist parlor game "cadavre exquise," a drawing that combines words and/or images by multiple artists on one sheet of paper, the project celebrates the theme of chance encounters, surprise and radical juxtaposition. Each artist adds to the composition, in sequence, without seeing the contribution of the previous person. The chance juxtaposition of images and styles results in a work that is both unexpected and amusing. Each drawing is a combination of the work of three or four artists.

The Exquisite Corpse project is a way for a wide range of artists to express their support for Armitage’s work and also a way for her to acknowledge artists who have played such a large role in her career. The project also highlights the “performative” aspect of art-making by demonstrating that drawing, performance art, and dance all have in common spontaneity and an unpredictable nature. The evanescent quality of dance is mirrored in the surprising juxtapositions of the Exquisite Corpse.

Image rights: (Top-Bottom) Michael Craig-Martin - Acrylic, Black Transfer; Ellen Berkenbilt - Colored India Ink; Sam Messer - India Ink, Watercolor, Pencil, Charcoal; Alison Fox - Watercolor, Charcoal, Colored Pencil, Pencil

About Michael Craig-Martin

Conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin—who taught Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, and others at London's Goldsmiths College in the 1970s—is often called the godfather of the Young British Artists. His early work referenced Minimalism and Dada's depiction of mass-produced objects. These objects form Craig-Martin's most recognizable works, paintings in which about 200 familiar items (eyeglasses, milk bottles, scissors) are depicted both realistically and graphically, represented in lurid, unexpected color combinations and black outline. The seminal piece An Oak Tree (1973) consists of a glass of water on a shelf, paired with text declaring that the glass is, in fact, an oak tree.

Irish, b. 1941, Dublin, Ireland, based in Dublin, Ireland

About Ellen Berkenblit

For more than 30 years, Ellen Berkenblit has been exploring line in her large-scale, exuberant paintings, combining an Abstract Expressionistic style with comic strip characters of her own invention. Though the recurring figure of a young girl and her animal consorts suggest narratives, Berkenblit sees these figures as collections of lines, devices that organize and drive her overall composition. As she explains: “The figures I choose have one purpose: they carry the line that I wish to draw. The figures are not symbolic; they don't represent anyone or anything in particular. They are the perfect excuse to get the first line going.” In Tigers vs Witches (2013), the profiles of a tiger and a witch face each other across the canvas. Their kinetic lines lead the eye to the deftly composed abstract shapes and colors filling and animating the work.

American, b. 1958, Paterson, New Jersey, based in New York, New York

About Sam Messer