One of America’s most elusive artists: Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning
March 17 – July 6, 2024
Floor Six, The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center for Special Exhibitions
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
New York, NY

ACT Professor Emerita Joan Jonas’ maximalist, category-defying work combines video, performance, folklore, sculpture, and ecology. In a New York Times Magazine profile, Jonas says she has no intention of simplifying anything.

This exhibition at the MoMA is the most comprehensive Joan Jonas retrospective in the US to date. Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning explores the artist’s influential career — spanning over 50 years — including performances, videos, large-scale multimedia installations, drawings, photographs, and archival material.

“I didn’t see a major difference between a poem, a sculpture, a film, or a dance,” Joan Jonas has said. For more than five decades, Jonas’s multidisciplinary work has bridged and redefined boundaries between performance, video, drawing, sculpture, and installation. The most comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States, Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning traces the full breadth of her career, from works that explore the encounter between performance and technology to recent installations about ecology and the landscape.

Jonas began her decades-long career in New York’s vibrant Downtown art scene of the 1960s and ’70s, where she was one of the first artists to work in performance and video. Drawing influence from literature, Noh and Kabuki theater, and art history, her early experimental works probed how a given element—be it distance, mirrors, the camera, or even wind—could transform one’s perception.

Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning presents drawings, photographs, notebooks, oral histories, film screenings, performances, and a selection of the artist’s installations. Jonas continues to produce her most urgent work through immersive multimedia installations that address climate change and kinship between species. “Despite my interest in history,” she has said, “my work always takes place in the present.”

Organized by Ana Janevski, Curator, with Lilia Rocio Taboada and Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Media and Performance, The Museum of Modern Art. With thanks to Mitchell Herrmann, Mellon-Marron Research Consortium Fellow, and Molly Superfine, Brandon Eng, and Piper Marshall, former Mellon-Marron Research Consortium Fellows, Department of Media and Performance, The Museum of Modern Art.

Associated Programming

Watch nine groundbreaking, magical, and endlessly inventive video works from Joan Jonas. This channel is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning, now on view at MoMA, through July 6, 2024.

Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27 at 7pm
Joan Jonas and Jason Moran: A Lecture Demonstration
Collaboration is a central tenet of Joan Jonas’s practice. For close to 20 years, she has performed with one of her most crucial collaborators: the celebrated pianist and musician Jason Moran, bringing his improvisational sounds into new performances and installations alike. Their interdisciplinary work together highlights the importance of feedback, improvisation, and music history across generations of artists.

Monday, April 15 at 6:30pm
Curatorial Conversation: Joan Jonas Performing with Others
This event is open to members at the Explore category and above. Join the MoMA for a conversation on the centrality of collaboration in Joan Jonas’s life and practice, organized in conjunction with the exhibition Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning. The discussion will be led by Lilia Rocio Taboada and Gee Wesley, curatorial assistants in the Department of Media and Performance.

Thursday, May 16 at 7pm
Joan Jonas: Out Takes
Continuing Joan Jonas’s decades-long exploration of nature, ritual, and techniques of perception, Out Takes (2022/2024) will feature Jonas’s most recent performance, organized in conjunction with the major exhibition Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning.

Layering sound, video, and narration, Out Takes began from Jonas’s explorations of unused footage from the artist’s archive, exemplifying her longstanding practice of reworking elements of previous artwork in her subsequent pieces. In this performance, Jonas interacts with videos excerpted from her works In the Trees (2015) and Moving Off the Land II (2019) alongside previously unreleased footage recorded over the past 30 years, including scenes of forests, coastlines, and appearances by Jonas’s dogs Zina and Ozu. Other prominent features of the work include sequences of the artist’s friends and neighbors, as well as the lush natural surroundings of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Jonas’s longtime summer home.

This performance of Out Takes will incorporate new material developed exclusively for its presentation at MoMA. Jonas will be accompanied by performer Lucy Mullican, with live music by composer Ikue Mori on keyboard.

Tuesday, June 25 – Sunday, June 30 at 12pm and 3pm
Joan Jonas: Mirror Piece I & II
In the late 1960s, Joan Jonas’s early performances utilized mirrors as props for transforming the perception of space and as devices for exploring representation, doubling, and the hierarchies of gender. Mirror Piece I & II (1969/2024) reprises Jonas’s groundbreaking early Mirror Piece works, updated and reconstructed from the notes and photographs of Mirror Piece I (1969) and Mirror Piece II (1970).

In these works, a cast of performers face an audience carrying mirrors and panes of plexiglass in synchronized, choreographed motions. The audience, performers, and surroundings are reflected and fragmented in the moving mirrors as the piece unfolds, blurring the boundary between spectator and participant. As Jonas recalls, “The mirror was a metaphor for me. A device to alter the image and to include the audience as reflection, making them uneasy as they view themselves in public.” This rare presentation of one of Jonas’s most celebrated works will activate MoMA’s public spaces.

The performance is included with Museum admission, and no separate ticket is required.

Joan Jonas: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
The Drawing Center
March 6 – June 2, 2024
Joan Jonas: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral is the first major retrospective focused on works on paper by ACT Professor Emerita Joan Jonas, one of the most significant experimental voices in American art of the postwar period. Although Jonas’s work has received critical attention and acclaim over the past few decades, her voluminous drawing oeuvre, which constitutes the backbone of her video, performance, and sculpture practices, has never been surveyed. This exhibition is a definitive look at the integral place of drawing in the career of this pioneering artist.

A visit to Joan Jonas' New York loft

Visit artist Joan Jonas in her Soho loft and enter her world of collected objects. A trailblazer of video and performance art, she began her decades-long career working in New York’s vibrant Downtown art scene of the 1960s and ’70s. Here she reflects on the city’s changing landscape, and takes us through the recurring props (mirrors, masks, and kites) and themes (play, mythology, our relationship to animals) that inspire her radical work.