An OHWOW Artist's Send-Off to Merce Cunningham

Besides being a modern-dance pioneer, Merce Cunningham was a champion of contemporary art who commissioned sets from Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Bruce Nauman, and, his last, Daniel Arsham.

Courtesy of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris/Nadine Johnson & Associates, Inc.

Besides being a modern-dance pioneer, Merce Cunningham was a champion of contemporary art who commissioned sets from Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bruce Nauman. His last collaborator was Daniel Arsham, a member of the OHWOW circle whom he enlisted six years ago, offering no directive other than to make a set that wouldn't injure the dancers. A partnership prospered, with the 31-year-old artist conceiving a series of dramatic stage designs: a half-submerged theater façade, a backdrop of luminous inkblot-like forms with ever-changing shapes and tones. After Cunningham's death, in 2009, his company embarked on a final tour that concludes December 29–31 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City (armoryonpark.org). Arsham's set consists of hanging sculptures that resemble molecular chains, the colors and forms taken from iPhone photos of clouds snapped while he was touring with Cunningham. There's something heavenly about it, though Arsham didn't intend it that way. "Merce wouldn't have liked that," he says.

— Rachel Wolff

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