Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887–1968) is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. His work prompted the rethinking of some of art's most traditional assumptions, most importantly the status of the art object and the cult of originality. In 1913 Duchamp realized his first readymade (a phrase he adopted in 1915) by mounting a bicycle wheel upside down on a kitchen stool. Around that time he began to use chance as a principal element in the making of works such as Erratum Musical
(1913) and 3 Standard Stoppages
(1913–14), both on view in this exhibition. Together with Man Ray and Francis Picabia, Duchamp is considered a leader of New York's strain of the international Dada movement. One of the most complex of Duchamp's works remains The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors
, Even (The Large Glass)
of 1915–23, installed in gallery 182. He created his final masterpiece Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau, 2° le gaz d'éclairage. . .
(permanently installed in gallery 183) over a period of twenty years, during which he publicly claimed to have given up art for chess. Duchamp's practice emphasized ideas over objects, chance over taste, and the notion of the artist as a provocateur over illustrious creator. That he opened the door for many subsequent movements of the twentieth century—from idea-driven Conceptual art to the experimental impulses of Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg—is a testament to the prolific, expansive, and open-ended nature of his art.
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John Cage (American, 1912–1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. He studied composition with the Austrian-born composer and theorist Arnold Schoenberg, and in 1938 began working as a dance accompanist and a teacher at the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle, where he met the dancer Merce Cunningham. Together, they redefined methods of composing music and choreographing dance by incorporating chance and indeterminacy. Cage revolutionized the course of modern music by using chance-derived operations to diminish his own personal preferences in the compositional process, referring to the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of changes, as a point of departure for many of his compositions. He served as music advisor for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from its inception in 1953 until shortly before his death. Cage is most known for his infamous "silent" piece, 4′33″
(1952), in which no sound is performed by the pianist, allowing noise from the audience and environment to become the content of the work. As a composer, Cage is also well known for his percussion music (1930s), his prepared piano compositions (1940s), his notations based on chance and indeterminacy (1950s), and the employment of new media (1960s onward). Cage's innovations continue to inform contemporary experimental music. www.johncage.org
Merce Cunningham (American, 1919–2009) developed choreographies that were radical explorations of movement in time and space independent of music and narrative. Founding the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953, he also redefined the relationship between the visual and performing arts through pioneering collaborations with leading visual artists and designers who contributed unique set pieces and costumes to the productions of his work. Cunningham spent some of his formative years in vaudeville dancing under Maude Barrett, and then studied at Seattle's Cornish School in the 1930s, where he first met composer John Cage, with whom he formed a lifelong partnership. Cunningham joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1939, which he left in the mid-1940s to develop his own technique that integrated the flexible upper body movements of modern dance with the verticality of ballet. In 1951, working closely with John Cage as well as with other avant-garde composers, Cunningham introduced into choreography the chance methods employed in Cage's musical composition. Dancers who trained with Cunningham and have gone on to form their own companies include Paul Taylor, Trisha Brown, and Lucinda Childs.mercecunningham.org
Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) is one of most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century and, more than any other American artist, extended the legacy of Marcel Duchamp into the medium of painting. As with Duchamp, he transformed the expectations of art by introducing into his work familiar and, at times, mundane objects from everyday life. His first solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1958 included paintings—most of which were created with encaustic, a wax mixed with pigments—and drawings of brightly colored targets, the American flag, and numbers, establishing him as one of the most innovative artists of the postwar period. Johns was the Artistic Advisor to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1967 to 1980. During his tenure he created the set for Walkaround Time
(1968; on view in Dancing around the Bride
's Main Stage), which reproduces elements from Duchamp's Large Glass
on seven rectangular, inflatable plastic elements. As Artistic Advisor, Johns often commissioned other artists such as Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, and Bruce Nauman to create stage sets and costumes for Cunningham's new choreographies. Merging the pictorial and the conceptual in his innovative painting, printmaking, and sculpture, Johns remains one of the most influential artists working today.
Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008) powerfully redefined the boundaries of art in the 1950s by bringing into it aspects and elements of real life. One of the most prolific artists of the last fifty years, Rauschenberg incorporated found objects into his assemblages in 1953–54, creating by 1955 what he termed "combines," an innovative form of art that breaks down the boundary between painting and sculpture. During that period he studied intermittently at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he developed close friendships with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Cy Twombly. Along with Cage and Cunningham, Rauschenberg took part in a performance titled Theater Piece #1
(1952), which is now considered to be the first Happening, and which included one of his infamous White Paintings
(1951) later shown at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1953. The following year he joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) as Resident Designer and held that position until 1964. For MCDC, Rauschenberg designed the decor for Minutiae
(1954), considered his first freestanding combine, as well as for Suite for Five in Space and Time
(1956), Antic Meet
(1958), Summerspace (A Lyric Dance)
(1968), and Travelogue
Philippe Parreno (French, born 1964) is an acclaimed contemporary artist working in film, sculpture, drawing, and installation. Rising to prominence in the 1990's, Parreno has earned critical attention for his interventions in the artistic development described as relational aesthetics—a movement that champions participation and social exchange as integral components of the exhibition experience. Employing the exhibition itself as his medium, Parreno activates the space through elements both physical and ethereal, choreographing an enveloping mise-en-scène
guided by the ghosts of the artist's own interjected subtleties which forge intimate encounters and moments of transient collectivity, often using space, time, light, and sound elements. Following a survey exhibition at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris in 2002, Philippe Parreno has had recent solo shows at Fondation Beyeler, Switzerland (2012), the Serpentine Gallery, London (2010), the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2009) and the Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2009). www.airdeparis.com/parreno.htm