Twelve dancers, trapped in what appear to be blocks of ice, stand in the Kennedy Center’s Hall of States. They’re part of a sculpture installation by Brooklyn-based artist Dustin Yellin called “Psychogeographies,” on display through May 6.
“I think of them as 3,000-pound microscope slides,” Yellin, 39, says.
Each block is made up of about 30 panes of glass, between which are sandwiched nebulas of paint and tiny cut-out images.
For instance, one ballerina is made up of images of little dancers, a breast cancer awareness ribbon and a bottle of Tabasco sauce, all cut out of books and magazines. Their pedestals? Granite blocks that, if you could peek at their bottoms, turn out to be gravestones engraved with the names of famous dancers from past generations.
These 3-D collages represent “all the cultural forces and genetic influences we’re made up of, all mixed up together,” Yellin says.
The New York City Ballet commissioned the sculptures, which were on display at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in February. They’re in D.C. to accompany a series of New York City Ballet performances at the Kennedy Center this week, including a showcase of 21st-century choreographers and a trio of works by George Balanchine, who co-founded the company in 1948.
Before making the sculptures, Yellin sat in on several ballet rehearsals.
“I was really moved by these young dancers, with all their energy,” he says.
Yellin’s sculptures capture that sense of movement.
“The slides change depending on what angle you look at them from,” he says.
From the front, you see a solid figure, but from the side, the image nearly disappears.
A former break dancer, Yellin didn’t use to go to the ballet very often. Now he’s a convert.
“Because of this series, I’ve started going to the ballet a lot,” he says. “It’s relaxing to me, almost like a waking dream.”
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; open daily, 10 a.m. to close, through May 6, free.
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