Entries tagged with “RIP”.

Captain Beefheart, requiescat in pace


Merce Cunningham in "Antic Meet", 1958

I became aware of Merce Cunningham via Cage of course and I was aware of how much of the music of that period that I so admired was paired with his dances.  Calvin Tompkin’s piece on Cunningham in The Bride and the Bachelors, though made me want to see some of these dances. Thanks to video I was able to see some of his works, dances that I found quite compelling and constantly engaging. I have little experience with dance in almost any form, so I really can’t comment much on them beyond that.  His use of many of the ideas that Cage championed such as chance operations, his decoupling of the dance from the music and his use of vital contemporary artists such as Rauschenberg and Johns for his sets and costumes kept his work endlessly fresh and compelling as far as I can tell.

On the day this news broke I was in San Francisco, seeing a bit of the city after a long bicycle trip. I took the train home that night and on the following day, yesterday, I passed through the small southwestern town of Centralia where Merce was born and raised.  Its dusty streets, a few shops and signs of it all collapsing from reliance on old industries such as logging were visible from the station. Such an out of the way backwater for one of the most adventurous innovators in modern dance. I thought of Merce as the train left the station and Centralia bound for Seattle, where he would attend Cornish, decide to dance, meet Cage and it was with much regret that I never got to see him or his company perform.  There had just been an article published in June outlining Cunningham’s plan for his company after his death and one of his plans was for a two year retrospective world tour of the company after which they would disband.  I for one intend to make one of those shows and see some of theses dances for myself.  Merce will be missed, but what a legacy.

Excellent NY Times Obit
Very nice Seattle Times Obit

Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning (1953)

Robert Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) one of the great artists loosely affiliated with the NY School, died yesterday. He had lived to the ripe old age of 84 and still was active toward the end.  His paintings, combines, mixed-media along with his work with the Merce Cunningham dance company leave an amazing, varied legacy. His work was highly influential on the NY School of Composers especially John Cage who cited his White Paintings as “allowing” him to do his “silent piece” (4’33”) which he had apparently been contemplating for a number of years. That piece of course is still reverberating today even though it was something that Cage was able to do and continue to press ahead.  Rauschenberg likewise did not sit still making white painting after white painting he continued on with incredible mixed-media work that he called Combines, that really shocked the art world of the time but have come to be ubiquitous in the present day.

I myself have seen Rauschenberg’s at MoMA, the Met, SAM and a few other major galleries and have liked some that I saw quite a bit while others not as much.  I’m not aware of any of his combines being on display in a venue that I’ve been able to attend but I’d love to see some of those in person.  His works that I have seen always reveal far, far more in person, the layers, edges of things revealed, the texture and depths of the pieces don’t come through as well in photographs.  While I was aware of his connection to the NY School and kept an eye out for his works in galleries as I’d go through them it was really reading Calvin Tompkins, The Bride and the Bachelors last year that really got me intrigued with his works.  He seemed so unassuming, a naturally driven artist, always questioning and subverting the common order.  It is the questioning of assumptions that draws me to so many artists and Rauschenberg seemed to have a charming child like innocence to it all; genuine questioning not just trying to be cutting edge.  A DVD has fairly recently been put out of his piece Open Score from the 9 Evenings series that has been on my to buy list for a while. I think I will move it to the top of the list.

Read the fairly thorough NY Time obit.
Check out this nice YouTube video of Rauschenberg talking about the Erased de Kooning.