I've been reading this book, The Bride and the Bachelors, by C. Tomkins, that I picked up a few years ago in a used book store and found again in my office where many random books have taken up residence. It was published in the 60s, and devoted to figures of the avant-garde. It makes me realize what a wonderful period this was. Duchamp, Cage, Tinguely, Rauschsenberg, and Cunningham. There are many connections among theses figures, admirations and mutual admirations. Kenneth Koch makes a brief appearance.
It makes me realize that the 60s is an avant-garde period. Aside from these five men, there was Ornette and Coltrane. I wondered why there is music, visual art, and dance in this book, but not literature. Well, maybe John Cage as a writer... What poet of that period would you put in this exalted company? I would say Frank O'Hara, who is my favorite poet. Some would say Charles Olson. Curiously, Tomkins speaks of him as "Olsen." It is a male dominated period, to be sure, and many of them were gay (a fact not mentioned by Calvin Tomkins.). Of course, the whole group of poet born around '26, with Ginsberg, Spicer, Creeley...
I am starting now the last chapter, on Merce Cunningham. His central idea is to have music and dance going on at the same time, but not coordinated. They are not dancing to the music. Cage and Cunningham would go away from each other, and work on the music and choreography separately. This is brilliant. I think it is a great thing that I know next to nothing about dance, not because I am proud of my ignorance, but that it represents an area for growth for me.
Anyway, reading this is like removing an obstacle to my creativity. Rauschenberg, for example, is indifferent to criticism, and if someone says what he does is not "art," he doesn't care. What does it matter what you call it? He just wants to do it, whatever it is.