Allan Kaprow Poster Talk

Allan Kaprow is an American artist, practitioner and theotist who paving the way for Performance Art and Installation Art. He was born in 1927, and died in 2006. Kaprow is an important figure in art practice and art history because he is the creator of the of artistic Happenings in early sixties. Kaprow studies at New York University, at Columbia University, and the New School of Social Research. He started producing artworks from the late 1950s till he dies. My presentation of Allan Kaprow include three parts: Early Trainings, Mature Period, and Influence.

Early Trainings

Kaprow began his career as an abstract painter in New York city in the 1940s. He created “Action Collages” which use materials of newspaper and straw. He was studying with Hans Hofmann, who is considered to have both preceded and influenced Abstract Expressionism; but he also inspired by the swirling drips and spatters of Jackson Pollock. Since 1955, Kaprow started teaching art history at Rutgers and attending classes of experimental musician, John Cage. While Cage’s motives were to relinquish artistic authority to his participants, Kaprow delivered his vision through viewer involvement. With John Cage’s influence, he became less and less focused on the product of painting, and instead on the action.

Since then, he started his mature period of his career, Kaprow began to adopt new methods of audience participation, incorporating performative and aural elements to create events experienced in real time. In this way Kaprow eliminated the subjects, structures, and narratives of conventional art practice. His practice became known as “Happenings“, a revolutionary element of the New York’s Avant-garde art movement in the 1960s, a form of spontaneous, non-linear action, revolutionized the practice of performance art. Kaprow’s “18 Happenings in 6 Parts” (1959) involved three rooms with chairs arranged in circles and rectangles forcing the audience to face in different directions. Each visitor was presented with a program and cards with instructions as to actions they were to follow.  “It is important” wrote Kaprow, “to declare as art the total event comprising noise/object/movement/color and psychology.” A main component of Happenings was the involvement of the viewer and emphasizing an interaction between the performer and the audience.

He was a pivotal figure in the shifting art world in the 1960s; Kaprow is an artist seeking the direct and ephemeral relations between art, the artist, and the audience achieved in the “here and now” of everyday life, he is also a deep and prolific thinker, teacher and writer who meticulously planned and theorized every instantiation of his work. The embodied experience of the environment and the performative and real-time elements of happenings foreshadowed the Installation and Performance art common in contemporary practice, paving the way for many artists. His happenings changed the definition of the art object. “Art” was no longer an object to be viewed hanging on a wall or set on a pedestal; rather, it could now be anything at all, including movement, sound, and even scent.