Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dancing around Duchamp!

The Bride and the Batchelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns is the current exhibition in the Barbican's art gallery. The show explores the legacy that the French born artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968) left in the USA and more specifically the influence he had on the composer John Cage (1912 - 1992), the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 - 2009) and the visual artists Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008) and Jasper Johns (born 1930). With the exception of the latter, the previous three Americans all attended the innovative Black Mountain College in North Carolina and all went on to collaborate later in their careers.

The title of the exhibition is named after the Duchamp artwork The Bride stripped bare by her batchelors, even (1915-23), also known as The Large Glass. The original is not displayed here, but a later version is wonderfully lit with spotlights casting striking colours and shadows through the work. Unfortunately I couldnt include a photo of this artwork, but the following pictures are some of my other highlights from this well curated show...

Bride, oil on canvas, 1912, Marcel Duchamp
Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), oil on canvas, 1912, Marcel Duchamp

Painted Bronze (Ale Cans), bronze & oil paint, 1960-64, Jasper Johns
These two works by Jasper Johns from the 1960's above and below remind me both of Duchamp's readymades that came before and work by Fischli & Weiss after, such as the Untitled (Tate) installation from 1992-2000.

Painted Bronze, bronze & oil paint, 1960-64, Jasper Johns

Portrait of Chess Players, oil on canvas, 1911, Marcel Duchamp

Untitled (Late Kabal American Zephyr), mixed media, 1985, Robert Rauschenberg
For someone who is more interested in visual art, this diverse exhibition offered a great musical and dance-led backdrop to the painting and sculpture. This was especially prevalent on the upper level, where I found myself periodically distracted by the performances on the lower level. I like the idea behind the 'live' piano music by Cage, which was played by 'ghost pianists' so that the two Disklavier piano's seem to be playing by themselves.

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