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Museum Exhibit Traces Cunningham’s Connection to American Postwar Artists



Bride, 1912, by Marcel Duchamp; image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art

Dance lovers pining for the defunct Merce Cunningham Dance Company can catch some former dancers performing Cunningham’s work as part of an exhibit running now through January 21 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“Dancing around the Bride” is the first exhibition to explore the interwoven lives, works, and experimental spirit of Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887–1968) and four of the most important American postwar artists: composer John Cage (1912–1992), choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009), and visual artists Jasper Johns (born 1930) and Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008).

Creating both individually and together, these artists profoundly affected the direction of postwar avant-garde art and American culture as a whole. The exhibition tells of their multiple levels of engagement, focusing on the ways in which Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg produced work inextricably linked to key aspects of Duchamp’s practice, such as the use of chance, the incorporation of everyday materials into their art, and the probing of the boundaries between art and life.

With more than 80 objects, stage sets, musical compositions, videos of dance, and live dance and music performances, the exhibition is organized as an environment in which visitors can explore the creative world of these artists and experience diverse aspects of their work firsthand. (The name of the exhibit is a reference to Duchamp’s celebrated painting Bride, which served as a critical point of reference for the four artists.)

Former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company will present 25- to 40-minute Cunningham Events, as well as solos, duets, trios, quartets, and quintets, that draw from several of Cunningham’s collaborations with Duchamp, Johns, Cage, and Rauschenberg, such as Suite for Five, Aeon, Interscape, XOVER, Story, and RainForest. Dance performances are free with admission.

For more information, visit For a full schedule of dance performances, visit



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November 2012
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