Merce Is in the House

An exhibition of the dance master's sets and costumes levitates above the MoCA boards

There's a brief lull here — Terry Winters' four oil-on-linen abstracts used as set décor, presented here seemingly as an afterthought — then a quick rebound with Indian Point Road (2004), a large-scale color DVD projection with sound by Christian Marclay, whose video work has been included in previous MoCA shows. The artist planted a camera on a country roadside in Maine and gathered static footage punctuated by cars whizzing past; Cunningham projected the video onto the stage from in front, so that his dancers' shadows interacted with the unexpected appearances of the cars.

In the same gallery, Duchamp makes yet another appearance via an untitled DVD projection from 2005. Legendary pop artist Richard Hamilton appropriates some of Duchamp's readymades (hat rack, snow shovel, bottle dryer) and adds some of his own (comb, corkscrew, top hat). Again, the resulting video was front-projected, very slowly, onto Cunningham's dancers so that they and their shadows might interact with the objects.

The rest of this gallery is populated by Charles Long's looming Tripods(2001), five wire structures wrapped in brightly colored metallic foil that more closely resembles papier-mâché. Cunningham's dancers were able to move around and through these odd objects, which are simultaneously abstract and suggestive of animalistic forms.

Theater without the stage: MoCA's set detritus
Steven Brooke
Theater without the stage: MoCA's set detritus
a Rauschenberg unitard
a Rauschenberg unitard

Details

On display through April 29.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Bldg., 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. Call 305-893-6211.

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The exhibition draws to its conclusion with a bang, although an intentionally muted one. First, there's a wall-mounted screen playing Lifelike (2001), a mesmerizing video in which Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, and Marc Downie use digital technology to transform Cunningham's moving hands into dancing abstract figures.

And just beyond is the show's coup de grâce, Kaiser and Eshkar's BIPED (1999), which has to be one of Cunningham's most inspired marriages of media. The artists attached light-reflecting sensors to a pair of the choreographer's dancers and filmed them. They then used computer software to generate ghostly, skeletal 3D figures that move across a transparent scrim, alternating with floating vertical bars of color, all front-projected so that the images continue beyond the scrim and onto the walls and floor of the space behind, where Cunningham's dancers would perform. The entire sequence is set to a dreamy score by Gavin Bryars that meshes music and found sounds. I slumped against a wall and drifted into a reverie, and my blood pressure must have dropped ten points.

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