January 18, 2019

Ralph Lemon named 2018–19 Sachs Visiting Professor

University of Pennsylvania

Ralph Lemon. Photo: Tara Fallaux.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Design has appointed Ralph Lemon, a choreographer, writer, visual artist, and curator, the Keith L. and Kathy Sachs Visiting Professor in the Department of Fine Arts for the 2018–19 Academic Year.

For more than 30 years, Lemon has been a celebrated and iconoclastic figure in contemporary performance. His practice is expansive, as evidenced by his epic The Geography Trilogy (1997–2005), which unfolded over the period of a decade and encompassed three evening-length performances, two internet projects, gallery exhibitions, and three books of Lemon’s writing, drawing, and photography. His work is both politically resonant and deeply personal, and has included collaborations with dancers and artists from New York, West Africa, South and East Asia, and the American South.

Lemon’s work often challenges institutional parameters, which has led to him being invited to create projects for spaces where dance rarely happens. In 2012, he curated a three-week program of dance performances for The Museum of Modern Art’s atrium, putting a focus on choreography at an institution that traditionally showcases static objects. Scaffold Work (2014), a complex performance/installation work by Lemon became part of the collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis as a “time-based acquisition” despite the enormous challenges of restaging the work in the future.

At PennDesign, Lemon will be engaged with students pursuing a Master of Fine Arts through a research group, which will meet both on campus and in New York City. He will also give a public lecture at Penn in the spring, on a date to be announced.

Born in Cincinnati and raised in Minneapolis, Ralph Lemon began his career as a dancer, which included working with the artist Meredith Monk. Lemon has choreographed more than 14 evening-length works for a number of companies including the Alvin Ailey Repertory Company, Boston Ballet, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and the Lyon Opera Ballet. The Geography Trilogy traveled nationally, including performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The Museum of Modern Art published Ralph Lemon(2016), a monograph on the artist by Thomas J. Lax.

The Sachs Visiting Professorship has been previously held by New York-based artist Josiah McElheny, a sculptor, performance artist, writer and filmmaker best known for his use of glass with other materials; and Egyptian artist and alumnus Wael Shawky (MFA’01), whose work tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance, and storytelling.

The mission of PennDesign is to prepare students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, we are committed to advancing the public good–locally and globally–through art, design, planning, and preservation.

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