• She served the Earth, and she was fun. With great sadness, we announce the death of our beloved friend Rachel Rosenthal [1926-2015]. Based in Los Angeles since the 1950s, Rosenthal was an interdisciplinary art pioneer, performer, teacher, animal-rights activist, and cultural icon. She passed peacefully on Sunday night, May 10, 2015, at 7:00pm, due to complications from congestive heart failure, surrounded by her Rachel Rosenthal Company family.

    Rachel taught her final performance workshop last Tuesday night, working up until the very end. She is survived by her nephew, Eric Landau, her legacy of animal rights-eco-activism, the pioneering art that she shared with the world, her TOHUBOHU! family, and her beloved dog, Fanny.

    Her non-profit organization, the Rachel Rosenthal Company, will continue her legacy by teaching her methods and performing once a month. Immensely proud of the work of her current ensemble, Rosenthal recently said that TOHUBOHU! Extreme Theatre Ensemble made her dream of theatre fully realized and kept her going for the last few years of her life.

    A memorial service is being planned. We’ve shared an updated bio about her remarkable life below. We will miss you Rachel.

    Rachel RosenthalRachel Rosenthal
    (Photo credit: Annie Leibovitz)

    Rachel Rosenthal (b. November 9, 1926, d. May 10, 2015)
    Rachel Rosenthal, a leading figure from the Southern California arts movement in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, has been inspiring audiences for decades. She is perhaps best known for her full-length performance art pieces, which offer unique combinations of theatre, dance, creative visual elements, and live music.

    Born into an affluent Russian-Jewish family in Paris, Rosenthal’s father, Léonard Rosenthal, was a gem merchant widely known as “The King of Pearls.” During World War II, her family escaped France, moving to Rio de Janeiro by way of Portugal. After losing his material wealth to the Nazi’s, her father had to start over at age 65. In 1941, the family left Brazil to settle in New York, where Rosenthal graduated from the High School of Music and Art and became a US citizen.

    She studied art, theater and dance in Paris and New York after the war with such teachers as Hans Hoffmann, Erwin Piscator, and Jean-Louis Barrault. Her circle included Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage, whose Zen sensibility informed and influenced Rosenthal’s aesthetic. With this foundation, she moved West and began her theatrical career in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s as artistic director and performer for the ten-year run of the totally improvised and influential underground Instant Theatre, which created pieces that drew upon notions of chance. Her husband of 20 years, actor King Moody, was her partner in the original Instant Theatre.

    Rosenthal has presented over 40 of her own original performance pieces – thought provoking works centered on humanity’s place on the planet.

    She has performed in over 100 venues around the world including documenta 8 in Kassel, Germany, The Helsinki Festival, ICA London, The Performance Space in Sydney, The Whitney Museum in New York City, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The Pompidou Centre included her in its 2006 show Los Angeles 1955-1985. Her pioneering performances have earned Obie, Rockefeller, Getty, NEA, and CAA awards, among others.

    In 1999, Rosenthal received an Honorary Doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and, in 2000, she was honored by the City of Los Angeles as a “Living Cultural Treasure of Los Angeles.” Critics have called her “a monument and a marvel” and Richard Schechner, editor of The Drama Review, put Rosenthal into the same category as Robert Wilson, Ping Chong, Richard Foreman, Meredith Monk, and Laurie Anderson.

    Artist Robert Rauschenberg honored her in a suite of prints, entitled Tribute 21, which acknowledged luminaries in the fields of art, politics, fashion, and commerce. Rauschenberg chose her to represent theatre. Other recipients included Mikhail Gorbachev, R. Buckminster Fuller, Toni Morrison, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.

    unnamed-28“Theater” from Tribute 21
    Honoring Rachel Rosenthal
    By Robert Rauschenberg

    She opened her studio, Espace DbD, on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles in 1980. From 1980 to 1983, Rosenthal presented performances by many emerging and established performance artists including Barbara Smith, Eleanor Antin, Cheri Gaulke, Alan Kaprow, John White, Joyce Cutler Shaw, Tom Jenkins, Stelarc, and many others. Rosenthal founded The Rachel Rosenthal Company as an educational non-profit arts organization in 1989.

    The Rachel Rosenthal Company plans to continue her legacy through performances and workshops. Rosenthal recently said that the current incarnation of her company, TOHUBOHU! Extreme Theatre Ensemble, made her dream of theatre fully realized and kept her going for the last few years of her life. TOHUBOHU! is Total Free Improvisation, a collaborative art form where ensemble members react and respond to surprises, challenges, accidents, the unknown, and the unexpected. In addition to its ongoing improvisational performances, in 2014 the group also launched an additional series of original fairy tales for the 21st century, Instant Fairy Tales. Rosenthal continued to actively direct the ensemble and her innovative workshops up until her death.

    Links –
    • Rachel Rosenthal Company Official Site – www.rachelrosenthal.org
    • Rachel Rosenthal Long Bio – www.rachelrosenthal.org/staff
    • Rachel Rosenthal Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Rosenthal
    • Rachel Rosenthal on YouTube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KdleN0vtUQ
    • Rachel Rosenthal Company on Facebook – www.facebook.com/TheRachelRosenthal
    • Rachel Rosenthal IMDb – www.imdb.com/name/nm0742816


    “Rosenthal defines what differentiates quality performance art from mundane theatrical exercise… she took us into her reality, and, for that brief and precious moment, she altered our vision of the world. This is what great art can and should do.” – Art Week

    “Rachel Rosenthal — bills herself simply as a performance artist. That’s about as accurate as calling the Taj Majal a house. The woman is a monument and a marvel. She is a force of nature… She is timeless, ageless, gutsy, quirky, exotic, potentially poignant.” – Los Angeles Times

    “Whether as the Earth who crawls out of a rubbish pile to bark out her role as both nurturer and destroyer, as the demonic diva who crouches into animal howls of despair, or as the crone who inscribes her age onto her bald head and then pours hot wax over it, Rosenthal is an Artaudian snake charmer, coaxing the audience, as he wrote, ‘by means of their organisms to an apprehension of the subtlest notions.'” – The Village Voice

    “As an artist, she seems to be permanently impaled on the cutting edge… She should be on the endangered species list, because there are few like her around, and once they disappear, the performing arts will be severely impoverished. People like Rosenthal inhabit a tiny, usually remote island, where alternative practices challenge the pounding surf of the mainstream, offering that rarest of all virtues; an alternative to mob culture.” – Los Angeles View

    “Judging from the usual fare, performance art is a young person’s game. But Rachel Rosenthal is not the usual; having helped shape the genre, her instrument – her physical persona and presentation – is more finely tuned than ever, the conception of her work still clear and profound.” – New Art Examiner

    “There is nothing quite like a Rachel Rosenthal artistic materialization. Seeing (her) and experiencing her after-show discussion session firsthand is like sitting for a few minutes with Plato, listening to Rousseau or Jung or Thoreau speak in person. An evening with Rachel Rosenthal will stay with you a lifetime; do it for your future.” – Entertainment Today

    On Timepiece – “Rosenthal’s giant presence seemed to flow through a series of vignettes and short solos featuring various members of her company… Rosenthal can dig deep into our emotional core, grab on, rip, wrench and illuminate the dark corners of the human condition.” – New Art Examiner

    “A kind of stand-up shaman, she performs as if the earth itself were using her as a Delphic voice to express a solipsistic reverie” – The Village Voice

    “How long does it take for a counterculture maverick to become venerable? Rachel Rosenthal, that longtime luminary on the performance art scene, remains as prickly and unpredictable as ever.” – Los Angeles Times

    “Rosenthal is a poet who can put you down on your back and turn on the words till you are literally floating blissful in her visualization.” – High Performance

    “Rachel is one of America’s most intelligent, politically committed, and challenging performance artists… Rosenthal’s is a theater of cruelty born of love. For all its fearsome intensity, it is unsentimentally hopeful and completely in favor of pleasure.” – The Village Voice

    “How do you like your Rachel Rosenthal? As the cultish seer of human nature, a myth-puncturing spinner of parable? As an outrageously giddy dowager who specializes in coquetry? No range seems too wide to encompass this performance artist’s many marvelous faces… all eyes and ears go to her… and trust that she will not let you go.” – Dance Magazine

    “Simultaneously personal and universal, Rosenthal’s work treads the fine line between spirituality and political commentary, stepping into both zip codes, seamlessly transitioning back and forth. Feminist and feminine, idealistic and angry, she can afford to examine extremes because of the nature of her work – performance art” – Los Angeles Reader


    Rachel RosenthalRachel Rosenthal
    (Photo credit: Michael Childers)


    Posted on May 12th, 2015 lynn-hasty No comments

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