In 1995, artist/choreographer Ralph Lemon embarked on a 10-year odyssey of quest and discovery that resulted in the Geography Trilogy, a synergy of anthropology and history with movement, sound, and art. The Trilogy was a profound self-examination and a remarkably sustained inquiry into the social gravities of race and identity at the turn of the 21st century. During the process, the artist developed a global language of movements and visuals that are simultaneously modern and traditional, Eastern and Western, light and dark, formal and free-form. The Walker presented all three works and also co-commissioned the third part, Come home Charley Patton. For OPEN-ENDED, Lemon has transformed the stage performance into an installation that is a subjective representation of memory and myth, charged with what he calls “a series of gracefully coded socio-atmospheric questions.” The work’s contents encompass writer James Baldwin’s historical lectures and Lemon’s ongoing relationship with Walter Carter, an African American man who has lived for almost a century in Mississippi. The discourse with history and ordinary human existence compels viewers to navigate the subtle complexities of the past existing in the present.
Since the late 1970s, Lemon has been based in New York but returns regularly to his hometown of Minneapolis. He was a founding member of the Mixed Blood Theatre Company of Minneapolis and performed with Meredith Monk/The House from 1979–1981. In 1985, he formed Cross Performance/Ralph Lemon Company, which gained international attention with commissions for the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Batsheva Dance Company, the Geneva Opera Ballet, and the Sydney Dance Company, among many others. Lemon has received numerous honors, including a 1999 CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts and the 2004 NYFA prize. From 1996–2000 he was an associate artist at Yale Repertory Theatre and in 2002 was a Fellow of the Humanities Council and the program in theater and dance at Princeton University. In 2004 he was a George A. Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently an artist-in-residence at Temple University in Philadelphia.