In order to pack in some primary research, last week I visited the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the Cunningham Dance Foundation. The building that houses the Rauschenberg space used to be an orphanage (St. Joseph Mission of the Immaculate Virgin), and it retains traces of this almshouse in its broad wooden stair cases, the behemoth cast iron stove in the kitchen, and the multi-story “chapel” in the back of the building. It’s hard not to have a transformational experience when you’re in this cavernous room by yourself, looking high up through a large skylight, experiencing a sense of quiet that is otherwise totally unnatural to the beast that is Manhattan. The Rauschenberg staff was extremely helpful, in spite of the fact that it was sunny and everybody probably wanted to be at the beach. It was particularly exciting to explore a batch of files that had just come up from Captiva, Rauschenberg’s Florida home. Among my findings, Bob’s instructions for making chili:
RAUSCHENBERG’S CHILI (also published in M Magazine in April 1986)
“I think chili is a philosophy. A sophisticated dish built out of scraps. My refrigerator is not sociologically, organically regional enough to prevent me from shopping a couple of days for my leftovers. Hot is paramount. A variety of meats in taste and texture are necessary to give that second-day awareness: ground meat, chopped gizzards and calf livers, chicken. Start with onions and chilis. Cook them in oil until they are soft. Start adding other stuff; green peppers, meat, stock or water, and more hot peppers. Cook for density and add spices (chili powder, oregano, cumin) to make the initial encounter seem tolerable. Don’t add tomatoes or beans. Sour cream and naturally cooling guacamole can be used as first aid. Serve frozen mango, watermelon, and key lime pie for dessert.”
At the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, I explored Cunningham-related materials that have already been housed there. As the Cunningham company comes to a close, its administrative files, photographs, films, and other similar materials will take up residence there.
And finally, I spent a day at Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s home on the far west side, on what is verifiably one of the city’s windiest streets. The dancers were rehearsing for their upcoming Mexico City tour, and everyone else was equally purposeful and busy in their work. Most of my time was spent in the archives, grasping as much information as I could from archivist David Vaughan, who has been steadfastly chronicling the company’s history since its early beginnings.