Merce Philip Cunningham was an American dancer and choreographer. He was the leader of American modern dance for over 50 years. Andy Warhol’s print of the dancer, Merce Cunningham I 124, was published in the portfolio Cunningham I. The portfolio contains works by seven artists with the goal of raising funds for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in New York. The lightness and elegance of Cunningham is represented in this work through Warhol’s ability to create stillness in a pose that elicits motion. This particular print shows Cunningham balancing at an angle, holding a chair to his back. The print is embellished with a somewhat retro floral pattern over the dancer, which completely obscures his facial features.
Merce Cunningham I 124 by Andy Warhol as Part of His Larger Body of Work
Merce Cunningham is an example of Warhol’s fascination with all forms of art including dance, fashion, film, and music. Prior to this work, Warhol collaborated with Cunningham and Jasper Johns in a stage performance called Rainforest. Warhol even created the set design for the performance. Although Cunningham never posed in front of Warhol directly, photographs taken of him dancing were given to Warhol as inspiration for this work.