Brendan Fernandes: Contract and Release dancers performing.

Brendan Fernandes: Contract and Release

September 11, 2019 – March 8, 2020

The Noguchi Museum’s collection installation Noguchi: Body-Space Devices—a group of about thirty works that motivate and modulate our physical understanding of space—is reconfigured as a set for Brendan Fernandes: Contract and Release, a performance-based collaboration with artist Brendan Fernandes (b. 1979), who works at the intersection of dance and the visual arts.

Contract and Release is the second iteration in a developing series of autobiographical examinations of the movement vocabularies that are intrinsic to Fernandes’s work. The first, The Master and Form, commissioned by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and presented in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, examined the mastery of balletic form and its relationship to pain and pleasure. In Contract and Release, Fernandes undermines the traditional dichotomy in which ballet embodies the adherence to rigorous technique while modern dance is viewed as free-form. (The third, opening in 2020 at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, explores shibari, Japanese rope bondage.)

In each one-hour performance of Contract and Release, three dancers perform various tasks using sculptures as training devices: wooden assembly models of Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures, the artist’s large red Play Sculpture, and six rocking chairs designed by Fernandes and fabricated by furniture maker Jason Lewis. Inspired by the blade-like (non-rocking) rocking chair that Noguchi made for Graham’s iconic Appalachian Spring (1944), Fernandes’s training devices actually rock, creating an endurance test for the dancers as they try to remain balanced while they contract and release their core muscles.

Wearing non-gendered costumes created by Rad Hourani and combining patterns of phrasing established by Fernandes, but without a fixed score, the dancers bring Noguchi and Graham’s joint multidisciplinary legacy into the present, transforming The Noguchi Museum’s galleries into what Noguchi, referring to his sets for Graham, called a space of the mind.


The six dancers who perform Contract and Release are: Héctor Cerna, Violetta Komyshan, Victor Lozano, Tiffany Mangulabnan, Oisín Monaghan, and Amy Saunder. The installation was developed with architecture and design collaborative Norman Kelley, with chair fabrication by Jason Lewis. Costumes by Rad Hourani.

Performances are unseated, and move throughout Areas 11 and 12 on the second floor.

Saturdays, 1:30 pm and 3 pm
September 14 and 28, 2019
October 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2019
November 2, 9, 16, and 23, 2019
December 7 and 14, 2019
January 11, 18, and 25, 2020
February 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, 2020

Special Tour and Closing Performance
March 7, 2020, 4 – 5:30 pm
To mark the closing weekend, artist Brendan Fernandes and Senior Curator Dakin Hart lead an exhibition tour followed by a final performance with the full cast of six dancers.


Brendan Fernandes: Contract and Release is made possible through major support from Jennifer and Malcolm Nolen. Additional support has been provided by Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi and the Florence V. Burden Foundation. The exhibition is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.