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Memorial 'Happening' to be held for Allan Kaprow, 1927-2006

By Inga Kiderra | May 26, 2006

Allan Kaprow
Allan Kaprow
Photograph courtesy Hauser & Wirth Zürich London

The life of the late Allan Kaprowfather of unscripted, interactive performance pieces known as “happenings”– will be celebrated on campus in the Kaprow spirit: with an afternoon of food, play, performance, words and noise.

Free and open to the public, the June 3 event is presented by the UCSD department of visual arts, where Kaprow taught for many years, and is scheduled to run from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Visual Arts Facility.

A self-described “un-artist,” Kaprow changed the course of 20th-century art.

“Though [Kaprow’s] work was often temporary, wrote San Diego Union-Tribune art critic Robert Pincus, “his place in the recent history of art is not.”

Inspired both by the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollack and the avant-garde composer John Cage, the unpredictable and theatrical happenings redrew the boundary between art and everyday life in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Happenings were staged quite literally anywhere – from fancy galleries to empty lots – and involved audience members as much as fellow artists (along the likes of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns), turning in the process objects as mundane as tires and old socks into materials for art.

“…Happenings had an immediate impact on the avant-garde art of the time, one that continues to be felt to this day,” wrote Barbara Rose in the Wall Street Journal.

A professor emeritus when he died on April 5, aged 78, at his home in Encinitas, Kaprow was part of the active UCSD visual arts faculty from 1974 to 1993.

“Allan walked a tightrope, not only between art and life, but between grandeur and intimacy,” said Steve Fagin, chair of visual arts. “He was a great teacher who reminded one, at the most unexpected moments, that the sacred had a banal streak and the secular reeked of the divine.”

The happening/memorial on Saturday will feature rare historical videos of  Kaprow performing his work, courtesy of the Kaprow Studio Archive.

Some of the renowned faculty artists paying tribute will include: poet, critic and performance artist David Antin (department of visual arts), doing an original talk piece; artist and filmmaker Eleanor Antin (visual arts), reading a new story connected to Kaprow; cellist Charles Curtis (department of music), performing work by La Monte Young; violinist Janos Negyesy (music), performing a piece by John Cage; and poet Jerome Rothenberg (visual arts and department of literature) with contrabassist Bertram Turetzky (music), doing an original poetry-and-music piece.

Distinguished guest performers include dancer/choreographer Simone Forti and artist/critic Suzanne Lacey.

To learn more about Kaprow, please visit his page on the Visual Arts website.

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