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Rarely Seen and Seldom Heard: Dia Plots Projects with Reclusive Experimental Artists Marian Zazeela and La Monte Young

Marian Zazeela, Drawing for Lightbox (Design C),1965.

©MARIAN ZAZEELA/BILL JACOBSON STUDIO, NEW YORK/COURTESY DIA ART FOUNDATION, NEW YORK

The Dia Art Foundation is mounting a rare exhibition this fall of works on paper by Marian Zazeela, who—with her longtime partner and collaborator La Monte Young—goes back to the earliest days of the foundation’s emergence as an enigmatic art and performance enterprise in the 1970s. Together, Zazeela and Young started their “Dream Festival” in New York with support from Dia in 1975 (in the SoHo loft space now occupied by another formative Dia holding: Walter De Maria’s New York Earth Room). And their long-running Dream House environment for sound and light found its largest form in a six-story instantiation in a former Mercantile Exchange building in Tribeca that was owned by Dia until the mid-’80s.

Now the foundation is presenting a long-term show—opening October 5 at Dia:Beacon in upstate New York—of some 30 drawings and works on paper by Zazeela dating back to 1962.

Marian Zazeela, Music of La Monte Young Concert Flyer, 1962.

©MARIAN ZAZEELA/BILL JACOBSON STUDIO, NEW YORK/COURTESY DIA ART FOUNDATION, NEW YORK

“Their practice collectively, with Dia and also outside, is well known, but Marian on her own and her drawings have not been seen very much,” Megan Witko, a curator at Dia who organized the exhibition, told ARTnews. After a show at the Kunst im Regenbogenstadl Dream House in Germany in 2000, the exhibition—a long-term commitment continuing through May 2021—will be only the second such presentation focused on Zazeela alone.

Many works will look familiar to followers of Young and Zazeela; her distinctive calligraphy and interest in designs inspired in part by early travels in Morocco have adorned materials related to work by her and Young for decades. (Other influences cited in an exhibition description include organic forms like wood grain, fingerprints, and coral.)

Additional works on view will include a 12-part “portrait” consisting of abstractions of the letters in the name of one of Dia’s three co-founders: Helen Winkler Fosdick. She played an important role in the foundation’s origin story as a linchpin who, while working for the storied art collectors and patrons John and Dominique de Menil, introduced their daughter, Philippa de Menil, to dealer Heiner Friedrich. Together, Philippa, Friedrich, and Winkler created a fertile mix of funding, vision, and fortitude that made Dia a special nexus for new ideas about art in America in the ’70s.

Also in the offing from the foundation, with a release date planned for sometime next summer, is a new 4-LP vinyl record set devoted to La Monte Young’s Trio for Strings, a seminal work of early musical minimalism written in 1958. The composition was one of several performed when Dia presented a Dream House installation in Chelsea in 2015, and a recording from then—from a concert led by cellist Charles Curtis—will grace what will be one of very few musical works by Young and Zazeela available to hear. (They released a DVD version of The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights last year, but otherwise, out-of-print records and CDs of that and other works can command prices of hundreds and even thousands of dollars among collectors.)

La Monte Young, Trio for Strings (1958), The Theatre of Eternal Music String Ensemble led by Charles Curtis, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela , Jung Hee Choi Dia 15 VI 13 545 West 22 Street Dream House, NYC, 2015.

JUNG HEE CHOI/©JUNG HEE CHOI 2015

In still more news, Young, Zazeela, and their senior disciple Jung Hee Choi are working on a program of “tape music concerts” of early work by Young to be presented by their MELA Foundation at the current Dream House—on Church Street in Tribeca—starting in late October. Still in the works for a final program for which dates have not yet been set, the rare and never-before-heard recordings to be played will include Five Small Pieces for String Quartet (1956), for Brass (1957), for Guitar (1958), Trio for Strings (1958 and 2015), The Well-Tuned Piano (1964 and 1987), and Map of 49’s Dream (1966 and 1990).

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