Ralph Lemon, a MacArthur-winning dancer, choreographer, and artist who has been influential for many, will later this year get his first US survey in the form of a show at MoMA PS1 in New York.

While the presentation’s checklist is not large by the standards of New York museum shows, with more than 40 works, the exhibition will hardly be a traditional one, as befits an artist like Lemon, whose work tends not to conform to the standards for what is seen in art galleries.

His participation in the 2022 Whitney Biennial, for example, took the form of arrays of hundreds of drawings that shifted during the course of the show’s run, with works being placed atop wall labels and in between the exhibition’s false walls. That contribution won him the Biennial’s prestigious Bucksbaum Award, which comes with $100,000.

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At PS1, in addition to photography, sculptures, paintings, and videos, there will, of course, be dances, some of which will be enacted live within the galleries. There will be performances held throughout the show’s run, as well as newly completed works such as Rant Redux (2020–24), a video installation featuring sound by artist Kevin Beasley that Lemon has described as a “very loud…Brown/Black body cultural experiment in rage, freedom, and/or ecstasy.”

Connie Butler, the newly joined MoMA PS1 director who organized the Lemon show with the Museum of Modern Art’s Thomas Lax, said in an interview, “For me, as a curator and a viewer, Ralph is one of the most important artists and interlocutors of recent decades. He’s a profound thinker, in terms of his influence.” She described his “polymathic practice” as being essential in bringing dance into museums during the 2000s.

Lemon has cultivated a following among multiple generations of artists. He has produced work in collaboration with artists ranging from Bruce Nauman to Nari Ward, from Isaac Julien to Okwui Okpokwasili, and has often considered the ways in which movement is informed by global history, one’s own heritage, and factors such as race and gender.

During the ’90s, he founded his New York dance company Cross Performance, and has since become a fixture of the city’s art scene.

Butler said that as she was conceiving the show, she heeded a goal of founding PS1 director Alanna Heiss, who had wanted to fill the museum with dance.

A Black person's arm dropping a book onto a floor that has a water bottle, some papers, and a microphone stand on it.
Ralph Lemon, Rant, 2018–.
Photo Jose Caldeira/Courtesy the artist

“I love that prompt,” Butler said. “Top of mind for me was to work with somebody who is very much a part of New York history and community. Ralph has such deep roots here.”

And, as it happens, PS1 will not be the only museum to fill a significant grouping of galleries with dance this fall.

The Lemon show, formally titled “Ceremonies Out of Air,” will open on November 14, meaning that its run will overlap with a sprawling survey about dancer Alvin Ailey at the Whitney Museum. That show will span 18,000 square feet and will involve the staging of daily performances.