Art Museum to mark John Cage centennial with 'Dancing Around the Bride'

Carolyn Brown dances in a 1968 staging of "Walkaround Time," a homage to Marcel Duchamp with choreography by Merce Cunningham, stage set and costumes by Jasper Johns. The Art Museum show focuses on Duchamp's influence on John Cage and other avant-garde artists, and will include paintings, stage sets, and sculptures. James Klosty.
Carolyn Brown dances in a 1968 staging of "Walkaround Time," a homage to Marcel Duchamp with choreography by Merce Cunningham, stage set and costumes by Jasper Johns. The Art Museum show focuses on Duchamp's influence on John Cage and other avant-garde artists, and will include paintings, stage sets, and sculptures. James Klosty.
Posted: March 29, 2012

Composer John Cage - whose centenary is being celebrated this year - was a frequent presence at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Anne d'Harnoncourt years. The point of entry was 20th-century revolutionary Marcel Duchamp, whose art influenced Cage and is strongly represented at the museum.

This fall, the Art Museum once again rolls the dice on Duchamp and Cage in "Dancing Around the Bride: John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Marcel Duchamp." The show will feature more than 100 paintings, stage sets, musical notations, and sculptures that explore philosophical connections among the quintet of artists.

Cage, of course, is credited as the prime pioneer in aleatory musical composition. But like many credited firsts, this one has notable antecedents. Cage's innovative Music of Changes from 1951 was preceded by Duchamp. The older artist wrote two works based on chance methods - in 1913 and 1915.

How do you devise an exhibition experience that reflects the nonlinear spirit that infuses the work of all five artists? Cocurators Carlos Basualdo and Erica F. Battle answer with an exhibition that presents "seven decades of innovative work in a space animated by choreographed sequences of sound and projected images, and punctuated by music and dance performances."

In a larger previous exhibition, "Rolywholyover A Circus," which the museum helped organize and host in 1995, works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Morris Graves, William Anastasi, Dove Bradshaw, and Marcel Duchamp were moved around (or even removed) two or three times a day according to the whims of an I Ching-inspired computer program, so the show could never be experienced twice in exactly the same way.

"Dancing Around the Bride" promises some surprise moves, though not to the same extent as "Rolywholyover."

One can't help think how much d'Harnoncourt, who died in 2008, would be enjoying this year of Cage.

"I did mention the show to Anne when I was working on Nauman show. I said I would love to do this show, and she smiled," said Basualdo. "It's hard to say if it has to do with Anne or has to do with the museum because it really has to do with both, and it's also a testament to how much Anne was a part of the museum because all of these artists are part of the DNA of Philadelphia."

Works in "Dancing Around the Bride" come from the museum's collection, as well as the Whitney, MoMA, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Centre Pompidou, Honolulu Museum of Art, and others. Algerian-born, Paris-based artist/filmmaker Philippe Parreno has been engaged, said Basualdo, as a metteur en scene, or scene-setter, "helping us to choreograph the exhibition."

Philadelphia-based Bowerbird and the museum are coproducing a Cage festival simultaneous with the Art Museum's exhibition, with about 18 "heavily Cage-focused" concerts over three weeks at the museum and elsewhere, said Bowerbird director Dustin Hurt.

The exhibition title derives from Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), or La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (Le Grand Verre) - the enigmatic work housed at the museum.

The show is slated to run from late October 2012 to mid-January 2013.

Contact Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/artswatch.

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