Examining one of the most important chapters in the history of contemporary art, Dancing around the Bride is the first exhibition to explore Marcel Duchamps American legacy by tracing his interactions and exchanges with four postwar masters: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. The exhibition features over one hundred works, including more than sixty by Johns and Rauschenberg and more than forty by Duchamp, as well as prerecorded and live music by John Cage and live performances of choreographies by Merce Cunningham. Many of these works are being seen together for the first time and reflect the artists multiple levels of engagement across the disciplines of art, dance, and music.
As the Philadelphia Museum of Art
holds the worlds largest and most significant collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, it is only fitting for the Museum to present this first exhibition juxtaposing works by Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg with one another and exploring their complex and vitally important relationship to Duchamp, says Timothy Rub, the Museums George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. This multidimensional and interdisciplinary show will enable visitors to experience and more fully appreciate one of the most exciting and momentous periods in the history of modern art.
Setting the direction for many subsequent developments in contemporary art, Duchamp famously questioned the very definition of art, probing the distinction between art and life, turning to chance rather than fixed ideas about taste and aesthetics, and utilizing everyday objects not only in the creation of his work, but as objects of art themselves. Encountering Duchamp and his work at various moments during the early stages of their development, Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg each embraced key aspects of Duchamps ideas and artistic practices and, by doing so, reinvigorated Duchamps own reception in the United States from the 1960s onward. The exhibition highlights formative moments such as Johns and Rauschenbergs 1958 visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see Duchamps The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (191523), one of the Museums greatest masterpieces and the source for this exhibitions title.
This exhibition is about the relationship between art and life, notes Carlos Basualdo, exhibition curator and the Museums Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art. It tells the story of five extraordinary artists and what happened to art and culture when their lives and work intersected. Their mutual interactions redefined the language of contemporary art in the 1950s and 60s.
The exhibition also reveals how important this moment was, and still is, for contemporary art and artists, adds Erica F. Battle, Project Curatorial Assistant, who is organizing the exhibition in collaboration with Basualdo. The explosion not only of creativity but of creative freedom and exchange that is examined in Dancing around the Bride is highly relevant to the dynamic structures of collaboration being explored by artists today.
In this spirit, the curators are collaborating with French artist Philippe Parreno, who is responsible for the exhibitions mise en scène, or its visual and spatial organization. Parrenowhose own film and installation work examines conditions of looking, temporality, and sequenceworked with the curators and exhibition design team to establish a timed sequence of audio elements, including Cages music and other sounds, and lighting as well as contribute artistic interventions that speak to the fruitful intersection of art, life, and experience.
Dancing around the Bride has been organized into four thematic sections. The first section titled The Bride looks at the central figure in Duchamps painting Bride (1912), which later became the protagonist in his Large Glass and in turn influenced such works as Johnss suite of eight untitled ink on plastic drawings (1986) and Rauschenbergs Brides Folly (1959).
The second section explores the theme of chance in works that share this Duchampian attitude, and charts the development of chance procedures in the music of Cage, the choreography of Cunningham, and the paintings and prints of Rauschenberg. Duchamps 3 Standard Stoppages (191314) is seen in dialogue with Cages Strings 120 (1980), Cunninghams choreographic notes for Suite for Five (1956), and Rauschenbergs Dirt Painting (for John Cage) (c. 1953).
In a section titled The Main Stage visitors can explore the collaborations and stage sets created by Rauschenberg and Johns for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with one of the exhibitions centerpieces, Johns and Cunninghams homage to Duchamp, Walkaround Time (1968). Johnss set design for this Cunningham choreography refers to elements of The Large Glass. This section of the exhibition also illustrates the intersecting work of Cunningham and Rauschenberg, whose Tantric Geography set design for Cunninghams Travelogue (1977) evokes Duchamps Bicycle Wheel (1964 replica of 1913 original).
As the game of chess was significant to Duchamp, the final section takes chess as both a literal motif and as a metaphor for exchanges among these artists. Duchamps Pocket Chess Set (1943) is seen with an electronic chessboard replicating the one that was used in Cages Reunion (1968), a chess game and musical performance with Duchamp. Additionally, artistic exchanges are detailed through works grouped by conceptual affinities, such as the juxtaposition of Duchamps Fountain (1950 replica of 1917 original) with Johnss Painted Bronze (Ale Cans) (1960)and Duchamps With Hidden Noise (1916) with Rauschenbergs Music Box (Elemental Sculpture) (c. 1953).
The Museums renowned Duchamp gallery (dHarnoncourt Gallery 182) and two neighboring galleries (180 and 181) have been reinstalled on the occasion of Dancing around the Bride, bringing a constellation of works by Cage, Johns, and Rauschenberg together to surround Duchamps Large Glass. This includes Cages No Title (date unknown), Johnss Numbers (2007), and Rauschenbergs Untitled (Venetian) (1973) and Untitled (Hoarfrost) (1975).