Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312.787.4071


Brendan Fernandes: The Master and Form Installation in collaboration with Norman Kelley
JAN 25, 2018 - MAR 10, 2018

The Graham Foundation is pleased to present The Master and Form, a new installation and performance series by artist Brendan Fernandes that explores themes of mastery and discipline within the culture of ballet through the use of designed objects that enable dancers to perfect and extend iconic positions. The culmination of Fernandes’ fall 2017 performance artist residency at the Graham Foundation, the project engages the Foundation’s historic Madlener House and features collaborations with designers Norman Kelley and dancers from the Joffrey Academy of Dance. 

In contrast to the grace and apparent ease of ballet as seen on stage, this project seeks to investigate the nature of the discipline’s idealized poses, acknowledging and challenging the depth of training necessary to achieve these forms. Working in collaboration with Norman Kelley, Fernandes developed a series of sculptural devices designed according to the ideal proportions of dancers’ bodies and serving as a site for intense, endurance-based practice. In rehearsals and performances throughout the run of the exhibition, Fernandes directs dancers as they perform with and within these structures, allowing the dancers to push closer to ideal forms on the edge of their physical abilities. Responding to the intense culture of perfectionism within ballet, Fernandes assumes the role of ballet master, using this authority to examine the complex power dynamics between designer and producer. Close enough to see dancers strain and sweat, this intimate and candid exhibition offers a safe space to consider the paradoxical appeal of the physical and psychological stresses embedded in the pursuit of perfect form.

The Graham Foundation performance residency program invites practitioners working in a wide range of disciplines to expand architectural discourse and work directly with the physical spaces of the Foundation’s historic Madlener House. Now on its second year, Fernandes’ project follows Chicago-based ATOM-r’s development and presentation of Kjell Theøry during the fall of 2016.

Brendan Fernandes is a Chicago-based Canadian artist of Kenyan and Indian descent. He completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007) and earned his MFA from the University of Western Ontario (2005) and his BFA from York University in Canada (2002). Fernandes has exhibited widely domestically and abroad, including exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal; The National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA: The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Sculpture Center, New York; The Quebec City Biennial; and the Third Guangzhou Triennial in China. Additionally, Fernandes has been awarded many highly regarded residencies around the world. Recent exhibitions include Lost Bodies, which originated at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Ontario (2016) and traveled to the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto (2017); and Free Fall, which originated at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago (2017), and resulted in an expanded version of the performance, Free Fall 49, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles in summer 2017. His recent monograph Still Move, was published by Black Dog Press, London, fall 2016. Upcoming solo projects include The High Line, New York (summer 2018), and DePaul University Art Museum (fall 2018). He is currently artist-in-residence and faculty at Northwestern University in the Department of Art Theory and Practice, and is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Norman Kelley, a New York and Chicago-based design collaborative, was founded by Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley in 2012. Norman Kelley’s work seeks to explore architecture and design’s limits between two- and three-dimensions. Along this spectrum, their work re-examines architecture and design’s relationship to vision, prompting its observers to see nuance in the familiar. The practice has contributed work to the 14th Venice Architecture Biennial (2014) and the first and second Chicago Architecture Biennials (2015, 2017), in addition to being the recipients of the Architecture League of New York Young Architect’s Prize (2014). Their collection of American Windsor chairs is currently represented by Volume Gallery in Chicago.

The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, is committed to providing students of all ages, levels and backgrounds who have a desire to dance with a world-class education built on a foundation of classical ballet. With the talents cultivated at the Joffrey Academy, students can pursue careers as professional dancers at companies throughout the world, higher education opportunities in dance, or success in other fields. Through the Joffrey Academy’s programs, students develop a diverse set of skills including artistry, creativity, discipline and confidence, among others. The Joffrey Academy’s high-quality, educational programming forms future audiences and support for the Joffrey and builds the organization’s reputation worldwide.

The Graham Foundation gratefully acknowledges our collaborators Norman Kelley, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, and Monique Meloche Gallery; the contributions of Alex Inglizian, Jason Lewis Furniture, and Navillus Woodworks; and the support of Crystal Head Vodka.

The Master and Form is organized by Graham Foundation director Sarah Herda and managing director of public programs Ellen Alderman.


Madlener House
4 West Burton Place, Chicago
Jan 25, 2018 to Mar 10, 2018

Please note, our galleries are temporarily closed for installation. Our next exhibition, The Master and Form, opens January 25, 2017.


Tuesday—Friday, 10am–5pm
 and by appointment.


Directions to Madlener House

View of "Brendan Fernandes: The Master and Form," in development, 2017, Graham Foundation, Chicago. dancer: Leah Upchurch, photo and rendering: Norman Kelley