Few details had come out about the premiere of “Bridge-s,” the latest performance work by singer, songwriter and visual artist Solange. But that didn’t stop more than 400 people from beelining to a preview earlier this week at the Getty Center, where the event will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday.
The performance, described as an exploration of “transition through time,” features a musical score composed by Solange and choreography from performance art duo Gerard & Kelly. The crowd — which included Solange and collaborators Tyler, the Creator and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange — gathered around the Getty garden terrace as the sun began to set, casting a golden glow.
Dressed in shades of orange and brown, musicians took their place in a grid-like layout, and a dancer began traversing the makeshift marble stage. Others soon entered the space, dancing a series of meditative and gestural solos, duets and group numbers.
Across an hour on Monday, music and the occasional chanting from the dancers reverberated throughout the Getty Center. Occasionally a distant sound would lead the crowd’s attention away from the central performance area, toward more performers on balconies or in the garden. Other moments — jazz pianist and instrument-builder Cooper-Moore, furiously playing piano from the tips of his fingers to his elbows, and a drummer using the Getty’s stone columns as the backbeat of a rhythmic dance — left the audience in rapt silence.
When the cast of 24 lined up to take bows, Solange shyly stepped forward, thanking the crowd for “allowing me the space to evolve and experiment and express new frontiers.”
Solange began composing “Bridge-s” about two months ago. Describing her creation process to The Times via email, she said the work explores her interest in repetition and minimalism, “while inviting moments of chaos, uncertainty, rupture, and which all feel like they speak to the unpredictable ride of transition.”
She started out by using her voice to create the melodies for each instrument in the piece. “Then I sit with my band and begin to experiment with building different loops of the compositions,” she said. “From there I try to maximize them as far as I can, building them out with as many iterations of sounds as I can,” eventually homing in on the key moments that resonate.
Choreographers Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly were inspired by Getty architect Richard Meier and his attempt to ”bridge European culture and classical antiquity with what he calls the warmth and friendliness of Southern California,” Kelly said.
“Bridge-s” is based on their ongoing project “Modern Living,” which pairs choreography with architecture. Like the team’s other works, the basic choreographic structure revolves around the idea of a clock. Each dancer has 12 core movements, and a cast of nine dancers yields “108 gestures that are used to collage, compose, reuse, recycle,” Gerard said.
Kelly and Gerard choreographed in collaboration with the dancers, including some CalArts alumni with whom they had worked on previous projects. “Even though the work is fairly abstract, there’s a very clear sense of the personalities and cultural experiences of the performers,” Kelly said.
And although Solange’s main focus was on the music, she was heavily involved in “every detail of the visual look of the work,” Kelly said.
“Bridge-s” is a continuation of Solange’s performance artwork at museums.
In 2017 she staged a site-specific piece with dancers and musicians at the Guggenheim in New York that reflected on black womanhood — a central theme of her album “A Seat at the Table.” In 2018 she premiered “Metatronia” in collaboration with Gerard & Kelly at the Hammer Museum in L.A. And in July, she screened her performance art film that set songs from her latest album, “When I Get Home,” against striking images of black cowboys at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
L.A. agency and label Iamsound approached the Getty about six months ago for a project with Solange, said Laurel Kishi, the center’s head of public programs. “They were looking at such elements as the conversation between bold modernist architecture and nature.”
Conceptualizing the music and choreography took months, and the staging process was even more intensive. The first day of rehearsal was canceled because of the recent Getty fire, so the team had to work quickly over the last few weeks.
Four free performances are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Solange also curated a series of film screenings, including Julie Dash’s 1970s experimental works “The Diary of an African Nun” and “Four Women,” and an artist talk with British-Ghanian philosopher Kodwo Eshun.
For Kishi, “Bridge-s” is a bridge, connecting Solange’s fan base to the often-exclusive art world.
Solange “talked about how challenging it can be for an artist of her stature to really have an opportunity to create outside of the more mainstream music world,” Kishi said. “This particular performance piece is definitely going to bring her fans and it’s going to bring new audiences to the Getty.”
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; check with museum for times of the four performances