by Roslyn Sulcas
As Stephen Petronio leaned out face-forward horizontally into space on Thursday afternoon, only his feet touching the edge of the roof at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the crowd below gave a stifled gasp. Mr. Petronio was about to begin his short and hair-raising re-enactment of Trisha Brown’s 1970 “Man Walking Down the Side of a Building,” and it was a scary, exhilarating sight.
“Man Walking,” like Ms. Brown’s other pieces shown at the Whitney on Thursday, was Part 2 of “Off the Wall,” an exhibition about ways in which artists have questioned traditional ideas about viewing art. Ms. Brown, one of the original members of the Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s and the improvisational Grand Union in the 1970s, was part of a group of artists who were instrumental in radically transforming ideas about making and watching art during those decades.