On Stage


Bellingham Rep’s interdisciplinary insights

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

It’s not often audience members are issued homework assignments in advance of attending a show, but in the case of Bellingham Repertory Dance’s “Projections” performances April 13-15 at Western Washington University’s Western Gallery, it will be possible to learn a thing or two by perusing the accompanying art exhibit in advance of the big night.

Beginning Mon., April 9, Ibram Lassaw’s “Projection Paintings” will be on display at the gallery, so if you’re visiting campus or are running early for a calculus class, peek inside to get a sense of the late artist’s compelling works, which will be exhibited through May 12.

Known as a first-generation New York Abstract Expressionist sculptor, Lassaw created the paintings on display in the late 1940s, way before projections became a common form of art. The works were painted on small glass slides by dripping or brushing dyes over the surfaces, and at times etching over dyed areas with a needle to make designs. When projected on the surfaces of the gallery’s walls, the pieces will be transformed into colorfully vibrant, light-filled images.

By the time Bellingham Repertory Dance members debut “Projections: Dance, Poetry, and Visual Art,” it’s a sure thing they will have also closely studied Lassaw’s images. In fact, the contemporary dance performances will directly explore the movement, colors and textures of his work.

According to a recent press release, the show also includes original choreography from BRD’s dancers, with inspirations from poetry by writers in the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater.

“‘Projections’ explores the complexities of artistic expression as each artist and audience member bring a distinct lens of their interpretation of art,” the missive says.

“The interdisciplinary concert follows BRD’s 12-year history of collaborations with community artists and poets since its inception in 2005. This spring, WWU dance faculty member Susan Haines worked with BRD creating dance to be performed among Lassaw’s projections of painted glass tiles as displayed in the gallery. The miniature, abstract paintings transform into monumental light images when projected on a wall’s surface, offering a dynamic and lively setting for contemporary dance.”

Poetry pairings by Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater scribes were chosen by Bellingham Repertory Dance’s in-house choreographers, and served as the context for premiering the modern dance works—meaning the artistic partnerships will be visible for all to see, hear and appreciate. 

There’s no doubt Lassaw would approve of how the interdisciplinary insights affect each other. In 1946, when he showed the paintings through a projector to other abstract expressionists at a summer hangout in Massachusetts, the works apparently encouraged interplay with viewers—including through the medium of dance.

The projections anticipated the “happenings” of the late 1950s and ’60s, and have withstood the test of time. If you don’t believe this, get to Western Gallery and study the works for yourself, and then test your knowledge during performances of “Projections.” After all, it’s never too late to learn something new.

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