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4.3 happenings


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4.3 happenings

  1. 1. Art and Life: HappeningsArt 109A: Contemporary ArtWestchester Community CollegeFall 2012Dr. Melissa Hall
  2. 2. Art as Life Art as Art
  3. 3. HappeningsAllan Kaprow, who studied withJohn Cage at the New School, iswidely credited with being the“father” of the Happening as an artform Allan Kaprow in 1964 Image source: NY Times
  4. 4. Happenings“The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,”Art News, 1958“The tragic news of Pollock’s death twosummers ago was profoundlydepressing to many of us . . . he was,perhaps, the embodiment of ourambition for absolute liberation . . . Wesaw in his example the possibility of anastounding freshness, a sort of ecstaticblindness.”Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of JacksonPollock,” Art News 1958 Art News magazines Image source:
  5. 5. Happenings“The act of painting, the newspace, the personal mark . . . areby now clichés of college artdepartments”Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of JacksonPollock,” Art News 1958 Life Magazine, “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” 1949
  6. 6. Happenings“Artists for at least a century haveworked as though the only thing ofimportance were the work in frontof them, a world unto itself . . .”Allan Kaprow, “Assemblages,Environments, and Happenings” 1965 Clement Greenberg looking at a painting by Ken Noland Image source:
  7. 7. Happenings“With the emergence of the pictureshop and museum in the last twocenturies as a direct consequence ofart’s separation from society, artcame to mean a dream world, cut offfrom real life and capable of onlyindirect reference to the existencemost people knew. The gallery andmuseum crystallized this idea byinsisting upon a ‘shshsh -- don’ttouch’ atmosphere. Traditionally, it is Action/Abstraction: Pollock, De Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976 at the Jewish Museum includes, from left, Willem de Kooning’s “Gothamsupposed that art is born entirely News” (1955), and Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence” (1952)from the heart or head and is then Image source:, all shiny and finished, to theshowplace.”Allan Kaprow, “Assemblages,Environments, and Happenings” 1965
  8. 8. HappeningsBut Kaprow argued that JacksonPollock’s revolutionary approachopened up a new path for artists Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock working, 1951
  9. 9. Happenings“Pollock . . . left us at the point wherewe must become preoccupied with andeven dazzled by the space and objectsof our everyday life, either our bodies,clothes, rooms, or if need be, thevastness of 42nd Street . . . “Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of JacksonPollock,” Art News 1958 Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock working, 1951
  10. 10. HappeningsPollock had abandoned traditionalfine art materials and redefinedpainting as action Martha Holmes, Jackson Pollock pouring sand into his painting, 1949 LIFE
  11. 11. HappeningsAny kind of material could be usedto make this new kind of art“Objects of every sort are materials for thenew art: paint, chairs, food, electric and neonlights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies,a thousand other things which will bediscovered by the present generation ofartists.”Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” ArtNews 1958 Martha Holmes, Jackson Pollock pouring sand into his painting, 1949 LIFE
  12. 12. HappeningsKaprow’s list of random materialsreads like a recipe for the work ofRobert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959Private collection Wallace Kirkland, Robert Rauschenberg creating artwork using blueprint paper and sun lamp. 1951 LIFE
  13. 13. HappeningsKaprow also argued that Pollock’spaintings were more like“environments” then pictures,inviting viewer-participation“[H]is mural-scale paintingsceased to become paintings andbecame environments. . . theentire painting comes out at us(we are participants rather thanobservers)”Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of JacksonPollock,” Art News 1958 Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm in the Metropolitan Museum Image source:
  14. 14. HappeningsKaprow proposed eliminating theart object entirely, and integrating itinto real life experience Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum, 2005 Image source: Rauschenberg-in-Retrospect-12-23-05.html
  15. 15. HappeningsHe saw the “happening” as a wayto extend “action painting” into thephysical world “What is a Happening? A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.” –Allan Kaprow Happenings, a term coined by Allan Kaprow in the late 1950s, define an art form in which an action is extracted from the environment, replacing the traditional art object with a performative gesture rooted in the movements of everyday life. Alan Kaprow, Image source:
  16. 16. HappeningsThe first “Happening” was JohnCage’s Theater Piece #1,performed at Black MountainCollege in 1952“Generally considered to be thefirst “happening,” Theatre PieceNo. 1 simultaneously broughttogether music, dance, poetry,painting, photography and filminto a single, multi-focus event.” John Cage preparing a piano, c. 1964 Image source:
  17. 17. HappeningsThere was no script, narrative, orpreconceived “meaning”“The piece was arrangedaccording to a simple “score” thatalotted each performer a setduration of time in which toperform. Outside of the scoreand the arrangement of props,nothing was pre-prescribed.Arranged as theatre-in-the-round,the performance took place bothin front and around the viewerswith the intent of integratingaudience and performance.” John Cage preparing a piano, c. 1964 Image source:
  18. 18. HappeningsLike Cage’s 4’ 33’, the “event” wasdesigned to immerse the audiencein a multi-sensual experience --auditory, visual, and sensory John Cage, 4’ 33”, 1952
  19. 19. HappeningsThe group that surrounded Kaprowincluded Claes Oldenberg, JimDine, Red Grooms, George Segal,Robert Whitman, and LucasSamaras Robert McElroy, photograph of a Happening in 1962. Foreground, from left, Patty Oldenburg (now Patty Mucha), Lucas Samaras and Claes Oldenburg (in green pants) in “Sports” in 1962. The audience for this Happening included Andy Warhol, background center, and John Chamberlain (leaning on pillar).
  20. 20. HappeningsArtists such as Andy Warhol,Jasper Johns, and RobertRauschenberg were also part of thecircle that attended Happenings Opening reception of “the Popular Image” – a Happening in Washington DC: Robert Rauschenberg and Olga Adorno (dancing); Andy Warhol and Mary Rapoport (right), © I.C. Rapoport, courtesy Pace Gallery Image source: happened-in-washington/
  21. 21. HappeningsThey staged spontaneous events inindustrial lofts, abandonedstorefronts, and other generally“non-art” spaces Robert Whitman in preparations for An Evening of Sound-Theater-Happenings (image © Robert R. McElroy/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York)
  22. 22. HappeningsPredecessors to “performance” art,Happenings constituted arevolutionary redefinition of the art“object” Jim Dine, The Big Laugh 1960
  23. 23. HappeningsThe work of art was the“experience,” rather than an objectthat could be placed in a museum“Allan took art off the walls andput it in places where anyonecould encounter it,” said DavidAntin, a poet, artist and longtimefriend of Kaprow. “It was a stepin the democratization of fine artand a big psychologicalbreakthrough.”Mike Rourke, “Allan Kaprow, 79; Artists`Happenings Broke New Ground inExpression,” LA Times, April 8, 2006 Allan Kaprow, Course, 1967 Image source:
  24. 24. HappeningsThe first “Happening” was AllanKaprow’s 18 Happenings in 6 Parts,performed at the Reuben Gallery in1959 Allan Kaprow, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts Reuben Gallery, 1959 Image source: images/2/
  25. 25. HappeningsThe audience and actors followed ascripted sequence of activities thattook place in three different spacessimultaneously Allan Kaprow, script for, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts Image course:
  26. 26. “The performanceconsisted of series of 18individual happenings -one per room for all sixparts - so that no oneperson was able to viewevery happening.“Rebecca Walker, University ofNorth Texas
  27. 27. “Before the performance started, Kaprow gave each participant a set of written instructions telling them to do simple everyday things — paint a picture, squeeze an orange, sweep the floor, climb a ladder, shout a political slogan, or sit on a chair. He wrote each instruction on a separate index card and told the performer exactly how many minutes and seconds he or she had in which to do the action required. At intervals, a bell rang to tell the participants to stop what they were doing, look at the next card and start the next action.” reviews/8170048/Allan-Kaprows-18- Happenings-in-6-Parts-Festival-Hall- review.htmlRobert Whitman, left, and Mr. Samaras in Allan Kaprow’s “18 Happenings in 6 Parts,” from 1959.
  28. 28. “As a student of John Cage, Kaprow put chance at the centre of his creative process. Happenings were not rehearsed and participants did not know before reading their instructions what they were going to do next — indeed, since Kaprow shuffled the index cards before he handed them out, neither did he. Once a happening was over, it was never performed again.” Allan-Kaprows-18-Happenings-in-6-Parts-Festival-Hall- review.htmlAllan Kaprow, "18 Happenings in 6 Parts" (1959)
  29. 29. HappeningsWords was an installation at theSmolin Gallery in New YorkLike all Happenings, it now existsonly in the form of a fewphotographs and descriptions Allan Kaprow, Words, 1962 Smolin Gallery, New York Image source:
  30. 30. "A play assumes that words arethe almost absolute medium. AHappening frequently has words,but they may or may not makeliteral sense.”Allan Kaprow
  31. 31. HappeningsHousehold was a performance thattook place at George Segal’s farmin 1964 Allan Kaprow, Household, 1964 Image source:
  32. 32. HappeningsOne of the activities involved lickingjelly off an automobile -- a kind ofgroup drip painting Allan Kaprow, Household, 1964 Image source:
  33. 33. Allan Kaprow, Household, 1964Image source:
  34. 34. HappeningsKaprow also pioneered“environments,” or installation artIn 1961 he installed Yard at theMartha Jackson Gallery, whichconsisted of an alley filled withdiscarded automobile tires Allan Kaprow, Yard, 1961 Martha Jackson Gallery, New York Image source:
  35. 35. HappeningsIt was like a “walk-in” JacksonPollock made from the detritus ofmodern urban life Julian Wasser, Allan Kaprow in his Environment “Yard,” 1967 Pasadena edition with participants. Image source: yard-changes-at-hauser-wirth/
  36. 36. Julian Wasser, Allan Kaprow in his Environment “Yard,” 1967 Pasadena editionwith participants.Image source:
  37. 37. Kaprow’s Yard was recently“reconstructed” by performanceartist William Pope.L at the site of Happeningsthe original Martha Jackson Gallery(32 East 69th St.) to celebrate theopening of the Houser & WirthGallery at the siteAllan Kaprow / William Pope.L, Yard (to Harrow), 1961 / 2009Image source:
  38. 38. HappeningsHappenings are difficult toreconstruct because the artwork is the experience itself Image source:
  39. 39. HappeningsIn 2008 the Museum ofContemporary Art in LosAngeles mounted acomprehensive “exhibition” ofKaprow’s works that consistedof “re-enactments”
  40. 40. HappeningsVarious events were re-enacted throughout the city
  41. 41. Happenings Allan Kaprow’s Fluids 1967 Photo © Dennis Hopper Artnet
  42. 42. “In time Allan eliminated the audience . . . The participants experienced the work by doing it,” Kelley said. “In that sense it is helpful to think of Allan as a composer. He was a composer of events.” Mike Rourke, “Allan Kaprow, 79; Artists `Happenings Broke New Ground in Expression,” LA Times, April 8, 2006 of Allan Kaprow’s Fluids, 2008Image source:
  43. 43. HappeningsOther artists associated withKaprow explored HappeningsThey tend to be moreconventionally “theatrical” in theirreliance on costumes, stage sets,and a passive audience Red Grooms, Burning Building, 1960
  44. 44. “The Burning Building grew out of a performance in Provincetown, Massachusetts, entitled A Play Called Fire, in which Grooms painted a picture before an audience for twenty-five minutes. Metropolitan MuseumJohn Cohen, Photo of Red Grooms, Burning Building, 1960Metropolitan Museum
  45. 45. HappeningsJim Dine’s The Smiling Workmanalso referenced art makingIn this piece the artist appeared incostume and painted the words “ILOVE WHAT I’M DOING” on acanvas (made of paper) Jim Dine, The Smiling Workman, The Judson Theater, 1959
  46. 46. HappeningsHe then dumped the bucket of paintover his head (to show "the feelingof a happy, compulsive painter,which I am”), drank the rest, andjumped through the picture Jim Dine, The Smiling Workman, The Judson Theater, 1959 Image source:
  47. 47. HappeningsJim Dine’s Car Crash wasperformed at the Reuben Gallery in1960A tightly scripted theatricalperformance, it reenacted anautomobile accident the artistendured with his wife Jim Dine and Robert Indiana (lower right) in Jim Dines Car Crash, performed at the Reuben Gallery, 1960, photo © Robert R. McElroy/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York Image source: pace-2-29-12_detail.asp?picnum=11
  48. 48. HappeningsClaes Oldenburg created anenvironment called The Street, atthe Judson Memorial Gallery in1960 Claes Oldenburg, The Street, 1960 Judson Memorial Gallery
  49. 49. HappeningsMade from discarded cardboard,burlap, and wood, it evoked anatmosphere of gritty urban decayrecalling Dubuffet’s art brutaesthetic“I sought crudity in style, to matchthe crudity of my surroundings”Claes Oldenburg Claes Oldenburg, The Street, 1960 Judson Memorial Gallery
  50. 50. HappeningsThe installation provided a stageset for a performance titledSnapshots from the CityOldenburg and others acted outvignettes of common city sights Claes Oldenburg, Snapshots From the City,” 1960 Performance at Judson Memorial Gallery Photograph Martha Holmes
  51. 51. Claes Oldenburg, Snapshots From the City,” 1960Performance at Judson Memorial GalleryPhotograph Martha Holmes
  52. 52. HappeningsUpsidedown City was a prop foranother performance, and was oneof Oldenburg’s first “soft sculptures” Claes Oldenburg, Upsidedown City, 1962 Walker Art Center
  53. 53. HappeningsIn 1961 Oldenburg opened TheStore on the lower east side ofManhattan Claes Oldenburg, Poster for The Store, 1961 Museum of Modern Art
  54. 54. HappeningsIn it he sold plaster replicas ofcommonplace objects painted inbright splashes of vulgar colors --celebrating, as he said “the poetryof everywhere” Claes Oldenburg, The Store, 1961
  55. 55. Happenings“Everything in the Store—shoes,pants, shirts, dresses, hats, ladies’lingerie, ties, pies, cakes, fried eggs,sandwiches, candy bars and more—was for sale at prices rangingfrom $21.79 for an oval mirror to$899.95 for a statue of a bride . . . itwas a philosophical critique of thedivision between art and life, aneffort to wrest art from itspedestal . . . .”Tony Sherman, “When Pop Turned the Art WorldUpside Down,” American Hertiage Magazine, Feb/March 2001 Image source:
  56. 56. Claes Oldenburg,Claes Oldenburg, Girls Yellow DressBraselette, 1961 1961 ArtnetWhitney Museum
  57. 57. Claes Oldenburg,Pie á la Mode1962Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  58. 58. Claes Oldenburg,Two Cheeseburgers with Everything1962Museum of Modern Art
  59. 59. Claes Oldenburg,Pastry Case I1961-2Museum of Modern Art
  60. 60. HappeningsIn his manifesto “I Am for an Art”published in the same year as TheStore, Oldenberg articulated hisideal of for an art of everyday thingsthat challenged the elitism of thegallery and the museum: William Crutchfield, Claes Oldenburg Image source: MnuID=2&ArtistIRN=8947&List=True
  61. 61. “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does not sit on its ass in a museum.I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all . . . .I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap . . . .I am for an art you can sit on. I am for an art you can pick your nose with or stub you toes on.I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapperI am for U.S. Government Inspected Art, Grade A art, Regular Price art, Yellow Ripe art, ExtraFancy art, Ready-to-Eat art, Best-for-Less art, Ready-to-Cook art, Fully cleaned art, Spend lessart, Eat better art, Ham art, pork art, chicken art, tomato art, banana art, apple art, turkey art,cake art, cookies art . . .”Claes Oldenburg
  62. 62. HappeningsWhat would Clement Greenbergthink? Claes Oldenburg, 7-Up, 1961 Hirshhorn
  63. 63. HappeningsThe store questioned the differencebetween art and everydaycommodities, and integrated it witheverday life by taking it out of the“shshsh don’t touch” atmosphere ofthe museum Clement Greenberg looking at a painting by Ken Noland Image source:
  64. 64. Happenings & Junk Art Happenings can be related to Junk Art and Assemblage“Happenings were like junkassemblages come to life. Theirimpetus was the same . . . . Just asthe contiguous elements inassemblage were juxtaposedwithout narrative logic, thesequential actions in Happeningsconveyed no sense of cause andeffect. Happenings dispensed witha linear storyline . . .no plots orstories, no character portrayals, nosense of time and place.”Barbara Haskell, Blam! The Explosion of Robert R. McElroy, Lucas Samaras in in Robert Whitman’s American Moon, performed atPop, Minimalism, and Performance the Reuben Gallery, November 29–December 4, 19601958-1964, Whitney Museum, 1984, p.43.
  65. 65. Happenings & Action Painting Happenings were also indebted to the concept of “Action Painting” — Allan Kaprow called them Action Paintings without objects, and Claes Oldenburg observed:“Sometimes I feel that what I’mdoing with living material, withpeople and objects and situations issomething like what they (de K[ooning]) and P[ollock]) did withpainting. I just have substitutedmaterial.”Barbara Haskell, Blam! The Explosion ofPop, Minimalism, and Performance1958-1964, Whitney Museum, 1984, p.44. Carolee Schneeman, Newspaper Event, 1963
  66. 66. Happenings & the Market Happenings were a reaction against the art market"However, unlike AbstractExpressionist paintings, Happenings-- impermanent and not replicable --were inherently uncommercial.They could be commissioned butnot bought or sold, and they couldnot be collected. For Kaprow, thisresult was deliberate, an anti-capitalist effort to prevent thestockpiling of art by the rich."Barbara Haskell, Blam! The Explosion ofPop, Minimalism, and Performance1958-1964, Whitney Museum, 1984, p.44. Jim Dine "The Big Laugh" (1960)
  67. 67. Happenings & the MarketSAMARAS All the happeningshappened in dumpy places. Whenartists started moving into lofts, theywouldn’t even clean them. So youwent to this groovy place, and it wasdark, with a few lights or flashlights. Itwas a spectacular jolting of yoursenses.ROBERT WHITMAN Everything aboutthe production was as crude and asprimitive as it could be, becausenobody really had any money tospend on any of this stuff. And it wasgenerally more visual than traditionaltheater: the accent was on the plasticcomposition more than storytelling. Judson Gallery entrance (1960)Carol Kino, “What Happened at ThoseHappenings?” New York Times February 22012
  68. 68. Happenings & the Market But even Happenings became “collectible” and chic“The performances that we weredoing very in the early sixties quicklybecame over-discovered, instead of afew friends showing up for ahappening … you’d have a lot oflimousines with seekers of thrills. So,like everything in New York, it doesn’ttake long before it becomes tooknown, so it loses its charm.”Claes Oldenburg, cited in Robert Ayers,“Read This Now: ”Happenings New York1958-1963″ by Mildred Glimcher” Claes Oldenburg (kneeling) overseeing the preparation of his Placid Civic Monument in Central Park, 1967 Image source:
  69. 69. Happenings & the Market“Happenings rapidly acquired theveneer of chic. By 1964 there weresigns that the seemingly inassimilablewas becoming welcome. Museumshad begun to commissionperformances in 1962 — Kaprow atthe Walker Art Center in Minneapolis,Oldenburg at the Dallas Museum forContemporary Art. By that time,Oldenburg lamented, ‘the whole thinghad become totally commercial.’”Barbara Haskell, Blam! The Explosion ofPop, Minimalism, and Performance1958-1964, Whitney Museum, 1984, p. 47. Claes Oldenburg (kneeling) overseeing the preparation of his Placid Civic Monument in Central Park, 1967 Image source: