TRISHA BROWN Wins Gish Prize 2011

It is my desire… to give the recipients of the prize the recognition they deserve, to bring attention to their contributions to society and encourage others to follow in their path – Lillian Gish – Photo: Trishia Brown © ArtLyst 2011 PC Robinson

The Gish Prize Trust announced on 13 September that artist/dance innovator Trisha Brown has been chosen to receive the 2011 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the largest and most prestigious awards in the arts. Brown who featured heavily in the recent Barbican exhibition New York The Downtown Scene in the 1970’s

Now in its 18th year and worth approximately $300,000, the Prize is a legacy from silent film stars Dorothy and Lillian Gish. Gish Prize recipients are nominated by the worldwide arts community and selected for their groundbreaking impact in their chosen fields. This year, the Gish Prize puts the spotlight on the world of modern dance, which Brown has transformed with new vocabularies of movement.

“The Gish Prize acknowledges and celebrates the hard work behind artistic breakthroughs and supports the indomitable spirit of these trailblazers and those who will follow,” says Jacqueline E. Elias, managing director of The Philanthropy Centre at JPMorgan Private Bank. “This tremendous gift inspires year after year, reflecting the spirit of the pioneering Gish sisters.” JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves as trustee of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize Trust.

Leaders in the arts community including Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art; Elizabeth Streb, founder of Streb Lab for Action Mechanics; and acclaimed lighting designer Jennifer Tipton will gather to honor Brown on November 2, 2011 at the Hudson Theatre, Millennium Broadway, New York City. The event will include a special performance by the Trisha Brown Dance Company.

Gish Prize recipients have shaped the cultural landscape in drama, music, dance, art, architecture, lighting design, film and literature. They range from iconic singer/songwriter Pete Seeger, who redefined the American songbook, to writer Chinua Achebe, who put African literature on the map, to Iranian visual artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, who gives a voice to those often left unheard. They also include visionaries like American theater director Peter Sellars, multimedia artist/musician Laurie Anderson and actor/director Robert Redford, who continue to make waves. (See full list of Gish Prize recipients below.)

The selection committee for the 2011 Gish Prize includes the Honorable Jane Alexander, actor and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts; Vishakha Desai, president and CEO, Asia Society; architect Elizabeth Diller; choreographer Garth Fagan and jazz musician Vijay Iyer.

Trisha Brown: 2011 Gish Prize Recipient

Artistic director, choreographer and dancer Trisha Brown revolutionized modern dance with her movement investigations, challenging existing perceptions of what constitutes performance. For over half a century, first as part of the Judson Dance Theater and then with her own company, Brown has continuously shaped and expanded the idea of what it means to dance, seamlessly blending her movements with the environment, technology and other art forms such as writing and music. She has created nearly 100 dance works since 1961.

Brown made her mark early in her career creating dances for alternative spaces including rooftops and walls, and flirting with gravity, alternately using it and defying it. Her groundbreaking early work includes Man Walking Down the Side of a Building (1970), and Roof Piece (1971), which was performed last June at the High Line. In 1983, working with Laurie Anderson (a fellow Gish Prize recipient), Brown created the iconic Set and Reset, which established the fluid yet unpredictably geometric style that remains a hallmark of her work. Her most frequent collaborator was Robert Rauschenberg, with whom she created her signature solo work If You Couldn’t See Me (1994), which she danced entirely with her back to the audience.

In the 1990s, Brown turned her attention to classical music, choreographing the acclaimed M.O. to J.S. Bach’s monumental Musical Offering, among others. In 2000, Brown, joined with visual artist Terry Winters and composer Dave Douglas to create El Trilogy, danced to the sounds and structures of jazz music. The multi-talented Brown has also directed four operas, including Pygmalion (2010), for which she also designed the set. She is currently working on a new piece that will premiere in October 2011 at Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris. She is also an accomplished visual artist and will have her next exhibition in December 2011 at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is one of the largest awards in the arts.     It is given annually to a person who has made an “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Nominations are welcomed from the arts community and may be submitted through The Gish Prize website, The Gish Prize committee, a group that changes every year, considers all nominations and chooses each recipient. The committee is composed of leaders in the arts community. Past committee members have included playwright David Henry Hwang, filmmaker Mira Nair, sculptor Martin Puryear, composer Alvin Singleton, and The Museum of Modern Art President Emerita Agnes Gund. The Gish Prize was established in 1994 by The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize Trust.

Stars of the silent screen, Dorothy and Lillian Gish brought their unique sensibilities and talents to early film, shaping the development of that art form. The sisters made their motion picture debut together in D.W. Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy in 1912 and went on to appear in over 100 films each. They also received accolades for their work on stage and in television. Lillian Gish died in 1993 and Dorothy Gish died in 1968. Their legacy lives on today in The Gish Prize and in their desire “…to give the recipients of the prize the recognition they deserve, to bring attention to their contributions to society and encourage others to follow in their path.” The prize will be awarded  2 November 2011 in New York City.

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize Recipients:

2010    Chinua Achebe, author
2009    Pete Seeger, folk musician, singer and social activist
2008    Robert Redford, filmmaker, activist, Sundance Institute founder
2007    Laurie Anderson, multimedia performance artist
2006    Shirin Neshat, visual artist and filmmaker
2005    Peter Sellars, theatre and opera director
2004    Ornette Coleman, jazz innovator
2003    Bill T. Jones, dancer/choreographer
2002    Lloyd Richards, theatre director
2001    Jennifer Tipton, lighting designer
2000    Merce Cunningham, dancer/choreographer
1999    Arthur Miller, author/playwright
1998    Isabel Allende, author
1997    Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter
1996    Robert Wilson, artist/director
1995    Ingmar Bergman, film director
1994    Frank Gehry, architect

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