Performance at Pomona: A Photo Gallery
"A Butterfly for Pomona" - Judy Chicago
"Preparation F" - John M. White
"Burning Bridges" - James Turrell '65
On a recent blustery Saturday, more than 2,000 people gathered at Pomona College for Performance at Pomona, our entry in the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival. The packed crowd moved from the Rains Center to Merritt Football Field and back to Marston Quad to witness recreations of seminal performance artworks from 1970 and 1971 by artists John M. White, Judy Chicago and James Turrell '65. Each of these artists is represented in the three segments of the pivotal Pomona College Museum of Art It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 exhibition.
The evening began at 5 p.m. with John M. White's Preparation F in the Memorial Gymnasium. The audience gathered around the center floor as Pomona-Pitzer football players, in street clothes, streamed in to the gym and grabbed a chair from an artfully arranged pile. The players disrobed and changed into their gear, as they would normally do in the locker room; scrimmaged for a few moments; and then began to follow the choreographed movements of a coach (dancer Steve Nagler). White commanded the performance with a coach's whistle. After the movements, they put their street clothes back on.
Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times noted in his review: "The physicality of the thudding of bodies in close proximity was compelling. The gym was crowded, but a sense of intimacy remained."
After Preparation F, the audience streamed outside into the brisk (but thankfully not rainy) air for Judy Chicago's A Butterfly for Pomona on Merritt Football Field. This new pyrotechnic performance was inspired by her 1970 Atmosphere environmental performance at Pomona College, for which she used flares and commercial fireworks to soften and feminize the environment. In this 2012 performance, flares were used to slowly light up a large butterfly on the field. Viewers watched as the butterfly shone and, periodically, more fireworks and smoke-emitting pyrotechnics would be set off to heighten the visual effect.
Closing the program, James Turrell recreated his 1971 performance Burning Bridges, a visual spectacle which used road flares to give Big Bridges the appearance of being lit on fire. (The original unannounced performance led a concerned witness to call the fire department). As the crowd watched from Marston Quad, the flares, hidden behind Big Bridges' columns, enveloped the building's facade in a brilliant orange glow.
For more information on the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, visit pacificstandardtimefestival.org.