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Jay Defeo at the Mills College Art Museum

Experiments in the Fault Zone traces some of the key moments and pivotal artistic figures in the arts at Mills from the 1930s to the present, and showcases the College’s internationally renowned commitment to experimentation and collaboration across the fine arts.

When visionary choreographer and scholar Marian Van Tuyl founded the Department of Dance in 1938, Mills was one of only two institutions of higher learning in the United States to offer a degree in the subject. Through Van Tuyl’s leadership, in 1941 Mills established the nation’s first degree in modern dance. Pioneering and long-lasting connections between dance and music were forged through Van Tuyl’s collaborations with avant-garde composer John Cage, who accompanied dance and taught at Mills from 1938 to 1941.

During World War II, Mills was a haven for avant-garde artists and musicians, including pioneering composers Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison, as well as contemporary artists such as Bauhaus school professor László Moholy-Nagy and leading Cubist painter Fernand Léger. In 1940, French composer Darius Milhaud joined the Mills faculty and established the College’s reputation in music, later strengthened in 1966 with the founding of the Mills Tape Music Center, now known as the Center for Contemporary Music.

Today Mills is an acclaimed center for artistic innovation, notably in cutting-edge electronic music composition, improvisation, interdisciplinary dance and music collaborations, and a commitment to pushing the boundaries of studio art practice.

The exhibition presents an overview of participants who created and continue this extraordinary history, including electronic music pioneers such as Pauline Oliveros, Robert Ashley, and David Behrman; the seminal collaborations of choreographer Rebecca Fuller and Darius Milhaud; and the radical work of painter Jay DeFeo and ceramic sculptors Antonio Prieto and Ron Nagle.

Mills continues to be at the forefront of advances in contemporary dance, music, intermedia, and visual art. Experiments in the Fault Zone showcases recent work that maintains Mill’s cross-disciplinary legacy through choreographer June Watanabe’s experiments in Japanese dance/story of Noh theater to very recent interpretations of John Cage’s Credo in US, 2011, featuring new choreography by Molissa Fenley, along with Merce Cunningham’s Event with Canfield, 2012, with the reconstruction of Minimalist artist Robert Morris’ light tower and original score by Pauline Oliveros.