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Rita McBride's Transformative Art at Dia Beacon: Exploring Collaborative and Architectural Concepts

Photo by Alex Hoerner, courtesy of the artist and Dia Beacon

The Dia Art Foundation presents a groundbreaking exhibition featuring the transformative art of Rita McBride at Dia Beacon. This unique presentation, titled "Rita McBride: Momentum," showcases a series of sculptural installations by the artist in the central galleries of Dia Beacon. The exhibition runs until January 2025 and features a diverse collection of works spanning over two decades of McBride's career. Notably, her monumental piece "Arena" from 1997 takes center stage, surrounded by various other artworks. Throughout the exhibition's duration, a dynamic range of artists, performers, writers, musicians, and dancers will engage with physical and virtual spaces in a program titled "Momentum."

Rita McBride is recognized for her distinctive approach to art creation, developed since the mid-1980s. Her method is characterized by its conceptual, cross-disciplinary, intermedia, and feminist nature, with collaboration as a cornerstone. McBride frequently collaborates with architects, engineers, physicists, and fellow artists to produce a diverse array of artistic forms, including installations, videos, publications, and public artworks. These creations not only delve into the relationships inherent in their production but also invite participatory engagement.

Photo by Tony Coll, MACBA Collection, Study Centre MACBA Historical Fonds

MACBA Museu D'art Contemporanide Barcelona

Central to this exhibition is McBride's enduring fascination with architecture, design, and sculpture, particularly as they intersect with the public sphere. Her pieces often take the form of seating structures, systems that guide movement, and even commercial awnings. The monumental artwork "Arena" stands as a prime example. This 1997 creation, resembling a lightweight modular tribune, reacts to the presence of both audiences and performers, effectively becoming "activated" through their engagement. Surrounding "Arena" are additional works from the past two decades, which mirror McBride's interest in how public infrastructures influence the act of observation.

One of the most striking pieces is "Arena," a large experiential sculpture measuring 13 by 66 by 99 feet, acquired by the Dia Art Foundation in 2021. Comprising Twaron fiber and wood, it evokes the appearance of a stadium or concert hall riser rather than a traditional gallery artwork. Passersby are encouraged to interact with it, sitting atop or walking through its space. This is in line with McBride's conceptual approach, where the artwork's physicality is activated by the movements of visitors. The artist herself describes "Arena" as a composition that generates a feeling on a molecular level—a sense of bodies reverberating, spaces breathing, and materials stretching and compressing.

Rita McBride Arena Momentum installation view Dia Beacon

© Rita McBride Rights Society, Photo by Don Stahl

McBride's history with Dia is extensive, including a previous exhibition titled "Particulates" in 2017 at the Chelsea location. Her work has consistently engaged with Dia's collection and history, prompting curator Alexis Lowry to reflect on how McBride's art expands concepts of social space, human interaction, and communal modes of creation. Notably, McBride has transformed "Arena" into a copyleft license, overseen by Dia, which allows for modified or extended versions while ensuring they remain free. This move aligns with the artwork's essence, challenging the notion of art as a static entity and hinting at its evolving future.

McBride's exhibition extends beyond the confines of physical artworks. The program "Momentum," developed in collaboration with choreographer Alexandra Waierstall and the experimental collective Discoteca Flaming Star, embodies the expansive and collaborative nature of her practice. "Momentum" explores duration, timing, rhythm, and movement through live and virtual activations. It captures the energy, reverberations, and resonances that occur within the shared structure of "Arena."

Rita McBride, Guide Rails 2020 and Awning Blue Stand City Block Blue 2002

© Rita McBride Society New York Photo by Don Stahl

In summary, Rita McBride's exhibition at Dia Beacon, titled "Rita McBride: Momentum," introduces viewers to the artist's transformative and collaborative approach to art. Central to the presentation is the monumental sculpture "Arena," surrounded by other works that reflect her interests in architecture, design, and public engagement. McBride's art challenges conventions, blurring the lines between observer and participant, and her copyleft approach to "Arena" suggests a fluid and evolving future for artistic creations. Through the collaborative program "Momentum," McBride extends her exploration of movement and resonance, inviting audiences to experience art in dynamic and immersive ways. The exhibition is a testament to McBride's profound impact on contemporary art and her ability to push boundaries, both physically and conceptually.


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