Stunning Photos From a New Book for Merce Cunningham Lovers

December 6, 2019

As if we didn’t have enough bounty in this centennial year of Merce Cunningham, another treasure has just appeared. James Klosty, the photographer who captured the most evocative moments of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at work and at play, has released an augmented version of his 1975 book, redesigned and renamed Merce Cunningham Redux.

The original essays are still included. For instance, Carolyn Brown, the dancer who most often partnered Cunningham in those years, wrote this about his dancing: “He moves with leopard stealth and speed and awareness and intention.” (Her wonderful essay, which you can read in full in the Redux version, was the seed for her acclaimed book Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham.) Other contributors include John Cage, Gordon Mumma, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Pauline Oliveros and Lew Lloyd.

Klosty’s dance photographs are glorious. They capture the communal feeling of the company in the ’60s and ’70s, early in the life of Cunningham’s work, as they rehearse and perform his dances from that period. For this edition, Klosty has added 140 pages of photos in rich duotone—some of them showing the dancers peacefully at work, others showing moments of a very contemporary sort of drama.

Enough said. Here are a few of the photos from Merce Cunningham Redux, available now from PowerHouse Books.

A trio of black and white images of Carolyn Brown and Merce Cunningham on a wooden floor. A small set up steps and an exit door are visible in the background. Both are in long sleeves and long sweatpants or leggings. They are mid-conversation, and as the series progresses Carolyn's smile and Merce's thoughtful expression turn into laughter.

Carolyn Brown and Merce Cunningham, Westbeth Studio, 1972
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty
A woman in a leotard and tights lies on her back at the front of a stage. Three dancers crouch behind her. One grasps her shoulder, another rests a hand on her thigh, and the third (jumping in a crouch) cradles her calves as he lifts her straightened legs off the floor. Another dancer balances in a deep parallel pliu00e9 by her head, this dancer's hands resting on the closest crouching dancer.
Canfield (1969), Sandra Neels, prone
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty
Slayton supports Brown with one arm wrapped across her hips, the other underneath her thighs. She is lifted upside down from the floor, knees bent over his shoulder. Her arms stretch overhead as she swings to the right, where some of Andy Warhol's famous "silver clouds" from the set of Cunningham's Rainforest are visible.
Rainforest (1968): Chase Robinson and Carolyn Brown
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty
In a black and white image, seven dancers are scattered, for the most part mid-run. One hinges almost to the ground, their fingertips just brushing the floor. Another is caught either mid fall or mid rise, tipping off balance backwards to the floor.
Tread (1970)
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty
Dunn stands in a shallow lunge, his left arm wrapped around Setterfield's right shoulder as she drapes herself along his straightened right leg. Her right arm extends softly toward his shoulder, her left curving toward the floor with her head inclined to match the line. Her back arches slightly where her spine is aligned with Dunn's leg; her knees bend so her shins hover just above the floor, the tops of her feet touching. In the background, another dancer stands with their arms raised overhead, head lowered, as a they grasp something that blends into the dark background of the stage.
Signals (1970) with Mel Wong, Valda Setterfield and Douglas Dunn
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty
Cunningham, seated in front of multi-paned windows, caught mid-laugh.
Merce Cunningham, Westbeth, 1972
James Klosty, Courtesy Klosty