Past Exhibitions

Maya Dunsky / Naked Dress

Curator: Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

Maya Dunsky’s dresses hover in the space, spreading out and dissolving into it. The series Dress ties both of her artistic fields together: painting and Butoh dance. Conceived in the 1960s as an avant-garde movement, Butoh freed dance from a predictated choreography and allowed the dancer to be attentive to the movement stemming from within and to the changes occurring in his body. Dunsky became acquainted with this dance form in the mid-1980s, during a six-year sojourn in Japan, where she studied under Kazuo Ohno, a founding father of Butoh. Butoh is a journey into the unknown, which calls for exposure and total dedication, as maintained by leading Butoh philosopher Fumiaki Nakamura: “Because we lose control of self-consciousness / we feel the fear of bottomless existence. / Then we know what it is about the ‘body’ that doesn’t belong to ‘will’, to the ‘ego’.”

The dresses created by Dunsky for her Butoh performances convey multiple identities which also emerge in her paintings. One of these performances, The Dress, features a large red dress suspended in the center of the room. Each dancer enters the space created by the dress, expresses the change the dress effects in him, and leaves. The dress thus becomes a locus of becoming and transformation. In one of the peaks of the performance, Dunsky herself appears from underneath the hems of the dress that have ridden up, swinging on a swing, ostensibly born from it. The dress is an invitation to encounter an unknown figure, an entity whose presence still echoes within it: “The dress,” she says, “remembers the one who left…”.

In the dance excerpt presented in the exhibition, the artist gradually sheds a transparent plastic sheet interwoven with strips of black glue, which remained from the installation Inner Space staged by Japanese artist Onishi Yasuaki at Wilfrid Israel Museum in 2012. The parting with the sticky cover marks a transformation, calling to mind the shedding of skin. Butoh, for Dunsky, is the dance of the naked soul. The process of exposure is infinite; it does not amount to breaking free from the garment that hides the body’s nakedness.

In her paintings, as in her dance, the dress-body is a breathing scene of action that expands into the engulfing space. It is an open envelope made of transparent layers of paint. The stains spread and fuse into one another without halting at the borders. The contours leave ends untied. The dress does not seek to delimit the boundaries of the physical body, but rather to articulate an emotional, energetic body in constant motion. Along the dress-body Dunsky marks foci around which internal universes rotate, fine quivering lines, and brush strokes painted with a sweeping intensity that grows into a vortex.

Dunsky is also aware of the latent contexts concealed in her works, associated with her being the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her body of painterly and Butoh works is strewn with images such as letters, envelopes, pockets, seams and patches, gestures of exposure and concealment. The engagement with items of clothing that carry personal stories and a memory of a life lost is, for her, yet another motivation to express the absent presence; to sew a dress for it, that furnishes a space of breathing and life, mending and healing.

Dunsky’s works in the current show are a part of an ongoing series begun in 2012, which spans scores of works. Their characteristic elongated format and dimensions allude to the body. Dunsky regards each dress as a gate. Each dress is akin to a mirror placed before the viewer, reflecting an identity and the soul beating within it.

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi