27 July 2009

Merce Cunningham 1919 - 2009

“What interests me is movement.
Not movement that necessarily refers to
something else,
but is just what it is.Like
when you see somebody or an
animal move,
you don’t have to know what it’s doing.”

Merce Cunningham

Merce (detail) by Herb Ritts

Merce Cunningham died in his sleep last night. He danced every performance with his company until he was 70 years old. Mercier Philip Cunningham did not follow the family tradition and practice law. As fate would have it, a neighbor had been a vaudeville performer and he took classes from her. Later, studying at Seattle's Cornish School, he met Martha Graham and joined her company where he remained for six years before striking out on his own.

In 1953, Cunningham founded his own company while teaching at Black Mountain College, an influential educational haven where the study of art was paramount. Cunningham taught with the likes of Walter Gropius, Robert Creely, Franz Klein, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Siskind, Charles Olson, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Lou Harrison, Buckminster Fuller, and John Cage.

John Cage and Merce Cunningham

Cunningham and Cage met at Seattle's Cornish School in 1942. Their association lasted fifty years, until Cage's death in 1992. During that time, both collectively and individually, they left an indelible impact on art in the Twentieth Century. After Cage's death Cunningham remarked, " “On the one hand, I come home at the end of the day and John’s not there. On the other hand, I come home and John’s not there.”

In 2005, Cunningham showed a little known talent, drawing. Aperture, published Other Animals, collecting many of the dancer's quirky and delightful images.

Tiger 5/3/97 -- Drawing by Merce Cunningham

Listen to a fragment from Sixty-Two Mesostics re Merce Cunningham for unaccompanied voice with mic, by John Cage.

Eliot Caplan did a lovely documentary on the collaboration of Cage and Cunningham, which is widely available, entitled: Cage Cunningham - A Film by Elliot Caplan.

Read the extensive New York Times obituary.

1 comment:

  1. What a gorgeus set of photos this guy really did an awesome job!


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