MERCE CUNNINGHAM AIN’T NO DEMOCRAT: Facing Dance (and Criticism) in Political Terms

“A discussion of art and politics wouldn’t be unusual. Nor would it seem untimely, given the current political climate, when nearly every artist is probably assumed to be a liberal and anti-Bush. And any art that touches on the sensibilities of a large enough demographic can cause a mediated backlash whereby the news media play up the outcry and sponsors of the art crumble under the pressure of not wanting to look bad (an exhibit of Cosimo Cavallaro’s milk chocolate Jesus that was scheduled to appear at NY’s Lab Gallery through Holy Week is only the most recent casualty).

But Alastair Macaulay’s recent (and first) editorial for The New York Times, “Democracy In Action, That’s Cunningham” (April 19th, 2007), casually–and without realizing, I’m sure–brings up a more interesting proposition: What makes an artist or art “Democratic”? Beyond the contemporaneous issues particular works of art might address—the war, civil rights, the current presidential administration—can we say that American art is inherently democratic, or is there a way to single out particular artists as being more democratic than others, as Macaulay seems to imply in his assessment of Merce Cunningham.”

Culturebot contributor Ryan Tracy responds to Alastair Macaulay’s NY Times editorial on Merce Cunningham.

Read the rest of the essay here.

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