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.

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

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.

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."

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.

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.

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 x 278 x 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.

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 x 64 x 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.

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 x 20 x 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

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.