JOHN CAGE TRIBUTE: Dove Bradshaw

Dove Bradshaw on John Cage: “I hope you don’t mind, I feel Dove is the daughter I never had,” John Cage said to my Mother.

Selection of artworks from exhibition, Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2011 Exhibition catalog - Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2011 (pdf) John Cage on Dove Bradshaw Biography

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“I hope you don’t mind, I feel Dove is the daughter I never had,” John Cage said to my Mother. He was evangelical about his adoption of chance operations, engaging likely artists to embrace them and I was one. A few of my own early Indeterminate works before meeting him prompted me to continue. Chance was his form of “sitting” Zen, it relegated his likes and dislikes as unimportant. Bob Rauschenberg had remarked “It is all well and good to use chance in composition, John, but not possible 100 per cent in painting.” I took it as a challenge and made silver and chemical paintings which are affected by the atmosphere, and outdoor sculptures of marble, pyrite and copper affected by weather.


John endorsed abstraction—he considered that the direction of art. Anything that looked like something else lost his interest, though he wasn’t doctrinaire. A Morris Graves bird, for instance, hung over his breakfast table. If John liked a work he would comment “beautiful.” If he didn’t he was silent. If he believed in the trajectory of an artist’s work he set his full force upon it. He wouldn’t hear of an artist diverting from his path, mentioning it in his lectures as the proper course of development. He only hung work that he believed in, in his loft with Merce. And he chose 20th Century Art meaningful to his aesthetic for a sweeping exhibition that traveled from Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and Mito Japan from 1993-95.


The idea that he did not intend his music to move the listener emotionally may come from the philosopher he loved to quote, Coomaraswamy, who invoked the ancient Indian notion: “the purpose of music was to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences.” John was full of deep feeling, but didn’t like dramatic display. Once I invited Merce, Bill and him to Pina Bausch to see her Sacre du Printemps, where she had set the dancers in pink satin slips to a frenzy on an earthen stage floor—in time their sweat muddied their limbs and underwear. He exclaimed, “Those Germans, too much sturm und drang!” In the context of contemporary and past music his sounds “other” because it is not driven by expression, rather it’s driven by the formal range of the selected instruments and performers, with chance operations organizing the possibilities. John’s chance and someone else’s chance, however, might not come from the same very clear and elegant mind.


(Artworks referenced in story above ... here)


Selection of artworks from exhibition at Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2011.

Medium, 1992/2011. Duraclear film, 9 1⁄2 x 29 inches Photograph on Plexiglass, Merce Cunningham Dancer, Victoria Finlaysen The dancer is a medium for the choreographer, but the work also points to the pain involved.


Home, 2008 Honey Locust thorns Built into a pyre, a “drawing in space.”


Partial Portrait, 2009 Plaster casts of the artist’s foot, face, left hand embedded flush in the wall Embedded: foot on floor with hand and face at artist’s height




2√0, 1971/1998 Glass, acetone This is a 1978 edition of the 1971 sculpture, the earliest work on view. “Made of conjoined twin glass bulbs it contains clear liquid, designed to function horizontally as a level and vertically as a clock. In action the liquid moves from one bulb to the other, voiding and filling, contingent upon time and gravity.” Charles Stuckey


Exhibition catalog - Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2011 (pdf)


John Cage on Dove Bradshaw The work of Dove Bradshaw works with our changing conceptions of time and space which we have assumed for a long time are two different things. She’s involved, as we are in our lives, because of art, with an almost scientific procedure, so that she can experiment in such a way as to prove something. And she can subject us to the results of her experiments which can open us to the life we are living…


Dove’s work is preparing us for a constant loss and a constant gain, and also of not knowing whether it’s good or bad.


It’s quite amazing. The fact that [her work] changes requires a change for me; it requires a change of attitude. If I so to speak change with it, then I can change with the world that I’m living in, which is doing the same thing.


We’re confronting now it seems to me in the very full way that her work is itself working—the identity, not the separateness, but the identity of time and space.


…Dove has introduced time into space, and our living is in that confusion.


The things that happen in her work are, so to speak, full of not her determination but its determination, such as chemical change, or gravity. She used the word event: whereas she’s interested in an undefined freedom of action for the chemistry. Of not doing anything.

…what we find in Dove’s work is constant experimentation with things to see what happens when you do that.


…Marcel Duchamp said, speaking of Utopia, that we won’t be able to reach it till we give up the notion of possession. And this work of Dove’s confronts possession completely…I was impressed by the difference between Rauschenberg’s empty white canvases [The White Paintings]…and the monochromatic white works that Dove has recently made, which if you touch them…the pigment comes off. Not only is it nature in transition from within, but we can move it, remove it by contact. That’s not exactly the same as those years ago, also beautiful works of Rauschenberg.


And the difference is the difference between then and now. That then became beautiful for me by receiving dust. This now equally whiteness and emptiness is willing to give itself and to change itself, and without losing itself. So that then becomes a model for daily behavior because it is anti-possession.


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John Cage and Thomas McEvilley In Conversation, 1992 from Dove Bradshaw: Works 1969-1993, Sandra Gering Gallery, New York, 1993


Dove Bradshaw + William Anastasi, 1st of 365 Daily Polaroid self-portraits, 1974/1975



Dove Bradshaw in 1969 pioneered the use of Indeterminacy in sculpture, painting,performance and film.  Sensualizing Conceptual Art, she enlisted unpredictable life forces with mourning doves in an installation of bicycle wheels and floor mounted targets.  Performance, her ongoing 1976 “claim” of a Metropolitan Museum fire hose anticipated the Museum Interventionist Movement, inspiring a 1978 guerrilla postcard authenticated by the 1992 museum’s card. Completing the circle the Metropolitan acquired the still functioning hose as a work in 2007. Bradshaw’s silver and chemically activated Contingency Paintings early examples of Process and Art/Science Movements, later expanded into “Time Sculptures” where weather catalyzed marble, pyrite and copper in the IndeterminacyMaterial/Immaterial and NotationSeries. Her Negative IonsSix Continents and Waterstones erode salt and stone with water. Radio Rocks’ galena and pyrite tuners receive local, short wave and Big Bang echoes in a permanent installation, Bolognano, Italy, while Jovian emissions were captured in a gallery via radio telescope. Time is central to each.


John Cage championed her in Dove Bradshaw, Works, 1969-1993, reprinted in the 2003 monograph Nature Change and Indeterminacy, including her in his 1991 Carnegie International and 1993-5 Rolywholyover Circus, chance-scored Twentieth Century art selection.  Since 1984 as Co-Artistic Advisor for Merce Cunningham Dance, she designed décor and lighting with music of Cage, Tudor, Kosugi and Pimenta for a decade of world productions. Works 1969-1984 launched at Syracuse University was followed by three mid-career exhibitions: Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, City University of New York and Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge. Represented in numerous American, European and a Russian museum, she regularly exhibits internationally—the Gwangju Biennale, Gallery 360°, Tokyo sponsored by Shu Uemura. A 1975 National Endowment Sculpture Award, a 1985 Pollack/Krasner Painting Award  were followed by the 1986 Prague d’Or for Cunningham costumes Points in Space, chosen by Nureyev for the Paris Opera in 1987. Born and lives in NYC. dovebradshaw.com


Artwork referenced in Dove Bradshaw on John Cage

Contingency Painting, 1992 [activated Jan. 1992; photographed Oct. 1993] silver, liver of sulfur on linen, 82 x 66 inches, Collection of Sam Jedig, Copenhagen Below Contingency Pour I, 2006 [activated Oct. 2006; photographed Mar. 2007] silver, liver of sulfur on linen, 76 x 66 inches In both paintings the chemical makes the work responsive to the atmosphere, changing indeterminately


Indeterminacy XV, 1997,  [activated July 1997, photographed July 1998] Vermont marble, pyrite, 24 x 96 x 40 inches; Fields Sculpture Park, Art Omi, Ghent , New York


Indeterminacy III, 1995 [activated June 1995, photographed January, 1998] Vermont marble, pyrite, 24 x 37 x 30 inches; Buckhorn Sculpture Park, Westchester, New York


Six Continents, 2003, [Africa and North America, partial view], 1000 ml Pyrex water filled separatory funnel, 150 lb salt  mounds each from Egypt representing Africa and green salt from the Dominican Republic representing North America 2006 Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea Below full view Salt taken from each continent: counter clockwise Australia, white salt from Western Australia; North America, grey salt from the Dominican Republic; Antartica, white salt from McMurdo Bay; Eurasia, brown salt form Ireland; Africa, buff colored salt from  Egypt and South America, pink salt from Chile. Installation SolwayJones Gallery, Los Angeles, 2005; photographed after one month interaction.

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