Merce Cunningham: Common Time

Images

  • Three dancers in colorful leotards and a triangular structure of colored banners are covered by two dancers’ silhouettes that reveal an orange-red room with three dancers and crowds of people.
  • The black-and-white image captures a cluster of seven dancers holding poses against an empty background, with a strong light coming from the left.
  • Amorphous fabric shapes hang from the ceiling of a dark gallery above a white sculptural form resting on the floor that has an eerie green glow.
Three dancers in colorful leotards and a triangular structure of colored banners are covered by two dancers’ silhouettes that reveal an orange-red room with three dancers and crowds of people.
Composite image featuring Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing Anniversary Event during the exhibition of Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project, Tate Modern, London, November 2003. Photo: Gigi Giannella; and still of Event for Television, 1977, with Frank Stella, Décor for Scramble, 1967. Video (color, sound), 56 min. Directed by Merrill Brockway. Courtesy of WNET-TV New York Archives. Décor © 2016 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
The black-and-white image captures a cluster of seven dancers holding poses against an empty background, with a strong light coming from the left.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing Canfield, 1970. Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York. Image © James Klosty, courtesy of James Klosty.
Installation view, Dance Works III: Merce Cunningham and Rei Kawakubo
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011
. Photo: Gene Pittman.
Amorphous fabric shapes hang from the ceiling of a dark gallery above a white sculptural form resting on the floor that has an eerie green glow.
  1. Long A gallery shot inside a dimly lit room, this scene shows a drooping fabric installation with cave-like fiber stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The stalactites range in scale from around 1 to 6 feet each, and they hang over a marshmallow-shaped form on the gallery floor. The form is white, with a couple of nipple-like protrusions. On the far left of the photo, the edge of a human figure is barley visible.
Installation view, décor for Views on Stage, 2004, in Dance Works II: Merce Cunningham/Ernesto Neto, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2012. Photo: Gene Pittman.
Jasper Johns, Set elements for Walkaround Time, 1968. Collection Walker Art Center, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2000.
Charles Atlas, MC9, 2012. Nine-channel synchronized video work with sound, 18 minutes; edition of 3, aside from 2 artist’s proofs. Installation view, “BMW Tate Live: Charles Atlas and Collaborators,” 2013, The Tanks, Tate Modern. Photo: Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson for Tate Photography, © Charles Atlas & Tate.

About

Merce Cunningham: Common Time is a major retrospective exhibition organized by the Walker Art Center that is appearing simultaneously at the Walker and the MCA. Merce Cunningham (American, 1919–2009) was a seminal figure in modern dance, revolutionizing performance through his choreography and world-renowned dance company and through partnerships with leading artists, who created costumes, lighting, and set designs for his company’s performances. The exhibition showcases Cunningham’s multidisciplinary projects, exploring, as Cunningham described, the “underlying principle that music and dance and art could be separate entities independent and interdependent, sharing a common time.”

Performance backdrops, documentary video and video installations, sets, costumes, artworks, photographs, and ephemera immerse viewers in Cunningham’s creative activities. The exhibition highlights partnerships with artists including lifelong collaborator John Cage as well as Black Mountain colleagues Jasper Johns and, Robert Rauschenberg and other major figures, including Frank Stella, Robert Morris, and Bruce Nauman, who were greatly influenced in the development of their visual styles by Cunningham’s ideas. Special features include a presentation of Andy Warhol’s Rainforest, which includes his famous helium-filled silver balloons, and Charles Atlas’s MC9, which will fill one of the MCA barrel vault galleries with 35 years of clips from Cunningham pieces in a dazzling audio-visual realization. It also features a series of new commissions by former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Ballet de Lorraine.

The exhibition is organized by the Walker Art Center’s Artistic Director Fionn Meade and Director and Senior Curator of Performing Arts Philip Bither, with Joan Rothfuss and Mary Coyne. It is overseen at the MCA by Curator Lynne Warren.

The exhibition is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor.

Installation Images

  • A black-walled corner in a room features a floor-to-ceiling gray-scale image of a crouching man seen from the front and the back on the left wall, and large white letters on the adjacent black wall that read: "MERCE CUNNINGHAM Common Time."
  • Two headless torso mannequins--one male one female--wear unitards covered in blue, red, and yellow dots, shown in front of a backdrop multicolored dots.
  • Six boards, each a different color and length, are supported by stands of increasing height and decreasing width.
  • Large projection screens hung at various heights and angles fill the dimly lit gallery. Videos projected on the screens show dancers in different performances and configurations.
  • A large room is filled with projection screens hung at different heights and angles. The screens depicts dancers performing choreography.
  • A thick white rope drapes across a row of chairs sitting on white blocks interspersed with silver bicycle tires. Behind them, a multicolor quilted fabric hangs from the ceiling in front of a red wall, and three smaller quilted fabrics fan out in imperfect circles.
  • Cathode ray televisions of medium to small size are stacked on top one another at varying orientations and held together by perforated metal brackets. Two different images are repeated on the different televisions: a black-and-white video of a barge on a lake and a color drawing of a flower on a patterned background.
  • Organic oblong shapes hang from a suspended fabric in a room that glows purple and blue. A woman looks up at them, while standing next to a round purple object on the floor.
  • In a dark, dramatically lit space, a large amalgam of white balls hangs from the ceiling while a photo of two female dancers in unitards is visible on the wall.
  • Ten headless mannequins dressed in clothing with unusual bulges are posed on a white platform and dramatically lit by spotlights on the ground.
A black-walled corner in a room features a floor-to-ceiling gray-scale image of a crouching man seen from the front and the back on the left wall, and large white letters on the adjacent black wall that read: "MERCE CUNNINGHAM Common Time."
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Two headless torso mannequins--one male one female--wear unitards covered in blue, red, and yellow dots, shown in front of a backdrop multicolored dots.
  1. Long Three torso-style mannequins are positioned in a semi-circle in front of a polka dot printed backdrop. The mannequins wear various styles of leotards (v-neck, scoop, and boat-neck) and tights (two are styled to wear them under their leotard and one over the leotard), which are pattered with the same multicolored polka dots that cover the backdrop.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Six boards, each a different color and length, are supported by stands of increasing height and decreasing width.
  1. Long Six banners, each suspended between two poles, appear against a pale gray gallery wall. The banners vary in color, ranging from deep violet to bright red. The coolest color appears closest to the floor, while the warmest appears highest off the ground. Similarly, the coolest banner is the longest, while the warmest is the shortest.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Frank Stella, Décor for Scramble, 1967. Aluminum, colored canvas covers, wood, and steel; 198 × 278 × 40 in. Walker Art Center, Merce Cunningham Dance Company Collection, Gift of Jay F. Ecklund, the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, Agnes Gund, Russell Cowles and Josine Peters, the Hayes Fund of HRK Foundation, Dorothy Lichtenstein, MAHADH Fund of HRK Foundation, Goodale Family Foundation, Marion Stroud Swingle, David Teiger, Kathleen Fluegel, Barbara G. Pine, and the T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Large projection screens hung at various heights and angles fill the dimly lit gallery. Videos projected on the screens show dancers in different performances and configurations.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Charles Atlas, MC9, 2012. 9-channel synchronized video installation. Courtesy Luhring Augustine, New York, and Charles Atlas. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
A large room is filled with projection screens hung at different heights and angles. The screens depicts dancers performing choreography.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Charles Atlas, MC9, 2012. 9-channel synchronized video installation. Courtesy Luhring Augustine, New York, and Charles Atlas. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
A thick white rope drapes across a row of chairs sitting on white blocks interspersed with silver bicycle tires. Behind them, a multicolor quilted fabric hangs from the ceiling in front of a red wall, and three smaller quilted fabrics fan out in imperfect circles.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Cathode ray televisions of medium to small size are stacked on top one another at varying orientations and held together by perforated metal brackets. Two different images are repeated on the different televisions: a black-and-white video of a barge on a lake and a color drawing of a flower on a patterned background.
  1. Long In a dimly lit gallery, 31 small to medium television monitors are stacked one on top of the other in varying orientations. The tower of TVs is held together by perforated metal brackets and rests atop a wooden cabinet that is labeled with the artist's last name and title of the work: "PAIK 66-76-89." The screens display three different images in an unclear order, creating a kaleidoscope effect: 10 screens display a black-and-white image of a barge on a lake, 10 screens display a colorful drawing of a tulip against a patterned background, 10 of the smallest screens display a blurry image of a woman's face, and one small monitor near the top displays what appears to be a mirrored landscape.
  2. Long Televisions of various sizes are stacked on one another in all orientations to loom over you. Half show a black and white image of an old plane floating in a body of water while the others repeat an abstract colorful image. They are piled on a box structure held together by a perforated steel apparatus.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Nam June Paik, 66-76-89, 1990. Television cabinet, 32 video monitors, and steel; 148 × 64 × 48 in. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1990. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Organic oblong shapes hang from a suspended fabric in a room that glows purple and blue. A woman looks up at them, while standing next to a round purple object on the floor.
  1. Long A woman stands in the center of a white room, dark but partially bathed in purple and blue light coming from fixtures on the walls. From the ceiling hangs a large network of white, stretchy, translucent, nylon fabric. At certain points in the fabric there are extrusions shaped like long socks filled with white beads that weight down the fabric making it look like drips of goo. There are also rounded holes in parts of the fabric and a large opening in the center of the network. Next to the woman is a small nylon blob with puckering holes on top and the sides.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Ernesto Neto, otheranimal, décor for Views on Stage, c. 2005. Nylon, polypropylene pellets, rice, glass beads, and plastic pellets; 18 × 20 × 20 ft. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, gift of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
In a dark, dramatically lit space, a large amalgam of white balls hangs from the ceiling while a photo of two female dancers in unitards is visible on the wall.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Ten headless mannequins dressed in clothing with unusual bulges are posed on a white platform and dramatically lit by spotlights on the ground.
Installation view, Merce Cunningham: Common Time, MCA Chicago, Feb 11–Apr 30, 2017. Work shown: Rei Kawakubo, costumes for Scenario, 1997. Padded skirts, shirts, tank tops, pants, shorts, dresses, and hot pants. Walker Art Center, Merce Cunningham Dance Company Collection, gift of Jay F. Ecklund, the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, Agnes Gund, Russell Cowles and Josine Peters, the Hayes Fund of HRK Foundation, Dorothy Lichtenstein, MAHADH Fund of HRK Foundation, Goodale Family Foundation, Marion Stroud Swingle, David Teiger, Kathleen Fluegel, Barbara G. Pine, and the T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

text

The artists featured in Merce Cunningham: Common Time include:

Hazel Larsen Archer
Bob Arnold
Daniel Arsham
Charles Atlas
Chad Batka
David Behrman
George Brecht
Trisha Brown
John Cage
Philip Corner
Merce Cunningham
Morton Feldman
David Freund
Philippe Halsman
Al Hansen
Deborah Hay
Toshi Ichiyanagi
Jasper Johns
Clemens Kalischer
Allan Kaprow
Stig T. Karlsson
Rei Kawakubo
Takehisa Kosugi
Shigeko Kubota
George Maciunas
Fred McDarrah
Peter Moore
Barbara Morgan
Robert Morris
Gordon Mumma
Bruce Nauman
Ernesto Neto
Isamu Noguchi
Pauline Oliveros
Yoko Ono
Mary Outten
Nam June Paik
D. A. Pennebaker
Yvonne Rainer
Robert Rauschenberg
M. C. Richards
Carolee Schneemann
Frank Stella
Elaine Summers
David Tudor
Charlotte Trowbridge
Andy Warhol
Christian Wolff

Funding

Merce Cunningham: Common Time is organized by the Walker Art Center with major support provided by the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Generous support is also provided by Agnes Gund and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Lead support for Merce Cunningham: Common Time is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; Cari and Michael Sacks; and Helen and Sam Zell.

Major support is provided by the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, Abby McCormick O’Neil and D. Carroll Joynes, anonymous, and the Nancy Lauter McDougal and Alfred L. McDougal Exhibition Fund.

Additional generous support is provided by The Irving Harris Foundation, Joyce E. Chelberg, NIB Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, Jennifer and Alec Litowitz, and Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund.

Special thanks to exhibition chairs, Sara Albrecht and Anne L. Kaplan.

The MCA is proud to partner with the Harris Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance, and the Joffrey Ballet.