Calvin Tomkins: The Bride and the Bachelors
This revised and expanded edition of Calvin Tomkins’s The Bride and the Bachelors features a new chapter examining the life and work of Jasper Johns and a preface written by the author. The original edition, released in 1965, included chapters on Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, and Robert Rauschenberg. Its subtitle, The Heretical Courtship in Modern Art, conveyed the challenges that the work of these artists presented to viewers at the time. A fifth chapter on Merce Cunningham, whose innovations in dance echoed the waning role of the artist’s hand in painting and sculpture, was added for the 1968 edition. Nearly fifty years after the original book’s release, these artists are reaffirmed as pivotal voices of the avant-garde, and The Bride and the Bachelors stands as the most intimate and authoritative account of their individual and shared practices.
Tomkins introduces each artist’s work through firsthand experience and exclusive interviews. Weaving through the six stories is the shared pursuit of the “bride,” or what Rauschenberg characterizes as “the gap” between art and life. Tomkins traces the artists’ individual efforts to create work that contends with the real world, focusing on Duchamp’s readymades and the mixed-media masterwork to which the book’s title alludes, Cage’s and Cunningham’s music and dance collaborations that were left open to the performers’ interpretations, Johns’s enigmatic and continuously shifting approach to art making, and Tinguely’s indifference to the definition of the artwork, suggesting that “once you get rid of the notion of art you acquire a great many wonderful new freedoms.” With new insights and half a century’s hindsight, this updated edition refreshes the dialogue that formed a tipping point for contemporary art.