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Yard (1961)

Allan Kaprow

Allan Kaprow is widely acknowledged as the father of the Happening, and his influence on the development of visual art during the course of the twentieth century cannot be underestimated. Kaprow, who originally trained as a painter and was strongly influenced by action painting, and particularly the work of Jackson Pollock, radically questioned the medium of painting in the late 1950s and directed it into an assemblage of installation, performance and interactive environment. His now-legendary 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, presented in 1959 at the Reuben Gallery in New York, was based on a form of script that Kaprow had prepared which invited the audience to take part in the action. It was, however, the influence of composer John Cage that ultimately empowered Kaprow to abandon the medium of painting for good. Witnessing Cage’s experiments, Kaprow was inspired to integrate various simultaneous events and media such as light, sound and painted environments into his works. He did this in a completely non-linear manner, similar to the way in which everyday experiences unfold in a modern metropolis. Capri has maintained his experimental spirit throughout his career, making experience itself the medium of his practice. Constantly rejecting the idea of making art that is capable of yielding to any conventional interpretations, he has aimed towards moving art closer and closer to common experiences of daily life, thus provoking what he would later describe as the ‘blurring’ of art and life. Just as provisional as life, the Happening would come and go, appear and disappear, or as Kaprow wrote in 1966, ‘The Happening? It was somewhere, some time ago.’

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