Open to Chance and Discovery
Unclassifiable exhibitions are all the rage, and “multimedia artist” is the most frequently claimed self-descriptor in the art world. But even in that context, “Nick Mauss: Transmissions,” which was at the Whitney Museum of American Art until mid-May, is hard to silo.
The show served as a kaleidoscopic lens on the development of ballet in 20th-century New York alongside avant-garde visual arts, with a focus on the tight-knit circle of gay men who propelled it. Though his name was in the title, only one piece by Mr. Mauss’s own hand was on view: “Images in Mind” (2018), two panels of enamel paint on mirrored glass that met in a corner.
“It’s an artwork disguised as an exhibition,” said Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s chief curator and deputy director and an organizer of “Transmissions.”
Instead, Mr. Mauss, 37, largely curated works by others — including photographs by George Platt Lynes and costume designs by the painter Pavel Tchelitchew — and arranged for a daily production by a rotating cast of 16 dancers, who performed in a roped-off area of the galleries.
Mr. Mauss grew up in Germany and attended Cooper Union in New York. He says he considers drawing his primary medium, though he often works in sculpture, too. The 303 Gallery in Chelsea has shown his works on paper, as well as glass and ceramic pieces.
“Nick’s not a linear thinker,” Mr. Rothkopf said. “It’s part of what makes him a good artist. His process is open to chance, discovery and surprising connections.”
Mr. Mauss, who is developing a site-specific installation on M.I.T.’s campus, said that his goal with “Transmissions” was to capture something fleeting. “Ballet really only exists in its moment of performance,” he said, “but it also exists in memory.”