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Young Artist Selected for Cunningham Finale Set Design

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On Wednesday, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company announced that it had commissioned artist Daniel Arsham, who was born in 1980, to create the set design for a series of events at the Park Avenue Armory that are part of the company's final “Legacy Tour” performances. Following the performances, which will be staged from December 29 to 31, the company will permanently disband.

“This new collaboration with Daniel continues the company’s long tradition of bringing together unique creative voices, both emerging and established, from every discipline — a tradition that has transformed the way we experience the visual and performing arts,” said Trevor Carlson, Executive Director of the Cunningham Dance Foundation, in a statement.

Arsham, who has previously collaborated with the company on three occasions, pushes the limits of art as it intersects with architecture.  Among the most recent presentations of his work was a 2010 solo show at the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris, France.  For this latest project, the Brooklyn- and Miami-based artist plans to fill the armory with thousands of colored spheres, which will be arranged to look like suspended clouds.

The spheres, which Arsham is in the process of making, will be created by enlarging digital photographs of clouds taken from airplane windows. After selecting color pixels from the photos and sampling the color from each one, Arsham will create a palette for his reconstructed, three-dimensional colored spheres. The spheres will be mounted above the audience and the stage.

"The advantage of the armory space is that viewers will be able to see these works from very far away, where the pixels will blend...and you'll read it almost as an image," explained Arsham. "And when you are up close to it, it's almost like zooming in on a digital image where you're going to actually read the individual pixels and the differences between them."

Arsham said in past Merce Cunningham Dance Company performances, he worked independently on the set design before piecing it together with the other elements for a final performance. Cunningham preferred that kind of collaboration.

"He never knew what I was doing in any of the performances because of the way that he worked," said Arsham. "He separated an evening of performance into three components — one being the choreography, which he created; another being the stage design, the costumes, all of the other visual elements; and the third being the score, the music."

The company's New York performances mark the end of a two-year legacy tour that Cunningham, who died in 2009, devised as part of his Legacy Plan. $10 tickets for the final performances go on sale to the public on August 15.