Beginning in 1954, Robert Rauschenberg became the first Artistic Advisor to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and served in this capacity until 1964. Jasper Johns followed from 1967 until 1980. Mark Lancaster was Advisor from 1980 through 1984. The last Advisors to be appointed were Dove Bradshaw and William Anastasi in 1984. The MCDC now operates with an Artistic Advisory Committee comprised of Paula Cooper, Gary Garrels, Eileen Rosenau and Trevor Carlson.
Darren Almond, William Anastasi, Charles Atlas, David Batchelor, Dove Bradshaw, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Maya Ciarrocchi, Karlos Carcamo, Heidi Cody, Aaron Copp, David Covey, Enrico David, Emanuel Dimas de Melo Pimenta, Marc Downie, Leonardo Drew, Olafur Eliasson, Beverly Emmons, Brian Eno, Shelley Eshkar, Morton Feldman, Suzanne Gallo, James Hall, Richard Hamilton, Robert Heishman, Roger Hiorns, James Ingalls, Josh Johnson, Paul Kaiser, Mark Lancaster, Roy Lichtenstein, Charles Long, Christian Marclay, Ernesto Neto, Gabriel Orozco, Robert Rauschenberg, Barbara Robertson, Sigur Ros, Terry Winters, Catherine Yass.
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, (1925-2008) was resident designer (décor, costumes, lighting) for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1954 to 1964. His first work for the company was the décor for Minutiae (1954), a free-standing object that became known as the first of the artist’s “Combines” and was shown in the exhibition of those works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 2005 to April 2006. (Also at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.) During those years he also designed Suite for Five, Labyrinthian Dances, Antic Meet, Summerspace, Rune, Crises, Æon, Winterbranch, and Story, for which he famously constructed a new set for each performance from materials he found in and around the theater. In later years he returned to collaborate with Merce Cunningham on Travelogue (1977), Interscape (2000), with music by John Cage. The painting Immerse (1994) was made to be used as a backdrop for Events. Rauschenberg’s costumes for Cunningham are illustrated in Volume 9 No 1 of the publication 2wice, 2006. Merce’s most recent work XOVER (October 2007), with music by John Cage, was their final collaboration, for which Robert Rauschenberg created both the costumes and backdrop from his
work Plank (2003).
JASPER JOHNS, studied at the University of South Carolina from 1947 to 1948. He then moved to New York and studied briefly at Parsons School of Design in 1949. While in New York, Johns met Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage. In 1958, the gallery owner Leo Castelli visited the studio of Robert Rauschenberg and, during this visit, discovered Johns, and subsequently gave him his first show. Uncredited, Johns assisted Rauschenberg in the execution of his decors for Merce Cunningham’s Minutiae and Summerspace. In 1967, he was named artistic advisor of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in which capacity he selected designers for new pieces as well as designing some himself. This led to a number of celebrated collaborations, including those with Frank Stella, for Scramble (1967); with Andy Warhol, for RainForest (1968); with Robert Morris, for Canfield (1969); and Bruce Nauman, for Tread (1970). Johns himself adapted Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass as the décor for Walkaround Time (1968) and designed Second Hand (1970) and Landrover (1972). In 1973 Johns designed Cunningham’s ballet for the Paris Opéra, Un jour ou deux, with music by John Cage. For MCDC, he designed Exchange (1978). In 1980, Mark Lancaster, who had been de facto resident designer since 1974, replaced Johns as artistic advisor.
MARK LANCASTER The English artist Mark Lancaster moved to New York in 1974, when he first designed for Merce Cunningham Dance Company, having been Jasper Johns’s assistant for Merce Cunningham’s Un jour ou deux for the Ballet of the Paris Opéra in 1973. He designed Sounddance (1975), Rebus (1975), Torse (1976), Squaregame (1976), Fractions (both video and stage versions, 1977), Tango (1978), Locale (1979), and Roadrunners (1979). In 1980 he was appointed Artistic Advisor to MCDC. He designed Duets for both MCDC (1980) and American Ballet Theatre (1982), for MCDC 10’s with Shoes (1981), Gallopade (1981), Trails (1982), and Quartet (1982.. In 1983 he collaborated with Charles Atlas on the design for Coast Zone in both film and stage versions; designed the Ballet Rambert production of Cunningham’s Fielding Sixes; Inlets 2 for MCDC and also for GRCOP (the experimental wing of the Paris Opéra Ballet) and Charleroi/Danses (Ballet Royal de Wallonie); and Merce Cunningham’s choreography of John Cage’s Roaratorio for MCDC. In 1984 he designed Pictures and Doubles (the latter also for Rambert Dance Company, 1990). Later that year he retired from the position of Artistic Advisor, but returned to the company in 1988 to design Five Stone Wind, for which he received a 1989 New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie”), and again in 1991 to design Neighbors, in 1992 Touchbase (for both MCDC and Rambert Dance Company), in 1993 CRWDSPCR, and in 1994 a new version of Soounddance. Lancaster’s paintings have been exhibited widely and are in numerous public and private collections. He now resides in Rhode Island.
DOVE BRADSHAW was born in NY in 1949. In 1975 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant and in 1985 the Pollock Krasner award. Her work has been seen in museums across the country and is in the permanent collection of many major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum. For MCDC she has designed costumes for Phrases (1984); costumes for Deli Commedia (1984); décor and costumes for Arcade (1985); costumes for Points in Space (1986); décor and costumes for Fabrications (1987); décor and costumes for Carousal (1987); costumes for Cargo X (1989); and décor and costumes for Trackers (1991).
WILLIAM ANASTASI was born in Philadelphia in 1933 and has lived in New York since 1963. His work has been seen in galleries around the world and is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Art Institute in Chicago, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. For MCDC he has designed décor for Phrases (1984); décor and costumes for Native Green (1985) and forGrange Eve (1986); décor for Points in Space (1986); décor and costumes for Shards (1987); costumes for Eleven (1987); and décor and costumes for Polarity (1990).
In 1984 Bradshaw and Anastasi were jointly appointed artistic advisors to MCDC.