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Mark Allen Svede

(b Liepāja, April 14, 1939; d West Berlin, Feb 14, 1984).

Latvian performance artist. He arrived in Germany at the age of five as a refugee and later triumphed over geopolitical circumstances to help revitalize artistic culture in his occupied homeland. While pursuing architectural studies at the Technische Hochschule in Aachen (1961–71), he grew interested in the interplay of progressive politics and innovative art forms, which prompted early collaborations with Wolf Vostell and Joseph Beuys, such as their performance 20 July ’64. In 1966 Āboliņš and Gerd Vorhoff founded the Neue Galerie in Aachen, where they organized happenings and performances by Beuys, Jörg Immendorff, Nam June Paik, Tomas Schmit and other key members of Fluxus, the movement instigated by another exiled Balt, the composer George Maciunas (1931–78). At the same time, inspired by the New Left, Āboliņš combated artistic provincialism within the conservative Latvian émigré community by proposing a cultural rapprochement with Soviet Latvia. Advocating an international—rather than a narrowly nationalist—Latvian identity, Āboliņš helped to organize in ...

Article

(b Geneva, June 24, 1948).

Swiss draughtsman, performance artist, painter, and sculptor. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Geneva (1966–7) and at the Glamorgan Summer School, Britain (1969). Armleder is known primarily for his involvement with Fluxus during the 1960s and 1970s, which included performances, installations, and collective activities. He was a member of the Groupe Luc Bois, based in Geneva in 1963. In 1969, with Patrick Lucchini and Claude Rychner, he was a founder-member of the Groupe Ecart, Geneva, from which stemmed the Galerie Ecart (1973) and its associated performance group (1974) and publications. Armleder’s first exhibition was at the Galerie Ecart in 1973, followed in the same year by one at the Palais de l’Athénée, Geneva. The anti-establishment and anti-formalist philosophy of the Fluxus groups continued in Armleder’s mixed-media works of later years, which include the Furniture Sculpture of the 1980s. In works that couple objects (second-hand or new) with abstract paintings executed by Armleder himself, and which often refer ironically to earlier modernist abstract examples, he questioned the context in which art is placed and the notion of authenticity in art. Such concerns continued to appear in his work. Armleder’s ...

Article

[It.: ‘impoverished art’]

Term coined by the Genoese critic Germano Celant in 1967 for a group of Italian artists who, from the late 1960s, attempted to break down the ‘dichotomy between art and life’ (Celant: Flash Art, 1967), mainly through the creation of happenings and sculptures made from everyday materials. Such an attitude was opposed to the conventional role of art merely to reflect reality. The first Arte Povera exhibition was held at the Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa, in 1967. Subsequent shows included those at the Galleria De’Foscherari in Bologna and the Arsenale in Amalfi (both 1968), the latter containing examples of performance art by such figures as Michelangelo Pistoletto. In general the work is characterized by startling juxtapositions of apparently unconnected objects: for example, in Venus of the Rags (1967; Naples, Di Bennardo col., see 1989 exh. cat., p. 365), Pistoletto created a vivid contrast between the cast of an antique sculpture (used as if it were a ready-made) and a brightly coloured pile of rags. Such combination of Classical and contemporary imagery had been characteristic of Giorgio de Chirico’s work from ...

Article

Ben  

Vanina Costa

[Vautier, Benjamin]

(b Naples, Italy, July 18, 1935).

French painter and performance artist. In 1949 he settled in Nice, where in 1958 he bought a record shop, which he used to stage exhibitions. In this gallery, which he initially called Laboratoire 32, and later Galerie Ben Doute de Tout, he held his first one-man show in 1960. Self-taught, he was by this time producing paintings of large handwritten words on a plain background, often coloured black and white, as in Je suis un menteur (1959; see 1987 exh. cat., p. 24). In an equally subversive spirit he created the Vomit Pictures (1958; see 1987 exh. cat., p. 14), which consisted of black canvases on to which he vomited. In the early 1960s he became associated with Fluxus, inscribing a ping-pong ball ‘Dieu’ for his Fluxbox Containing God (1961; see 1987 exh. cat., pp. 54–5) and in 1962 taking part in the Festival of Misfits at Gallery One in London. His Fluxus editioned works were often containers filled with everyday objects or materials, such as ...

Article

Heiner Stachelhaus

revised by Ina Blom

(b Krefeld, May 12, 1921; d Düsseldorf, Jan 23, 1986).

German sculptor, performance artist, printmaker teacher, and political activist. He opposed a concept of art based on such autonomous genres as panel painting and sculpture. Instead he pursued in his performance art (‘Aktionen’) and sculpture an ‘expanded concept of art’, aimed at a total permeation of life by creative acts. By his provocative and often misunderstood statement that ‘each person is an artist’, he did not mean that everyone is a painter or a sculptor. Rather, he wanted to express the idea that any person could become creatively active. This concept culminated logically in his idea of ‘social sculpture’, an art designed to activate the creative power possessed by every individual to form his or her own life situation.

As a schoolboy Beuys was strongly interested in natural science, which remained significant for his later work. After taking his Abitur in 1940 in Kleve on the Lower Rhine, where he grew up, he first wanted to become a paediatrician. However, in ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b New York, Aug 27, 1926; d Cologne, Germany, Dec 5, 2008).

American sculptor, performance artist, and writer. A proto-conceptual artist, Brecht emerged as part of the group of avant-garde composers and artists surrounding John Cage in the late 1950s. His model of the ‘event score’, a short textual proposition meant to activate the experience between subject and object, was a pivotal contribution to the conceptual strategies of art in the 1960s. A member of Cage’s Experimental Composition courses at New York’s New School for Social Research (1956–60), he wrote chance-based, indeterminate scores, first for music, and eventually for events in all dimensions. In October 1959 his first solo exhibition, Toward Events: An Arrangement (New York, Reuben Gal.), featured constellations of ready-made objects in familiar ‘frames’, such as a regular medicine cabinet (e.g. Repository, 1961; New York, MOMA) or a suitcase, with instructions indicating how they could be perceived as ‘events’ via suggested (but open) time-based encounters. Between 1959 and ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(b Los Angeles, Sept 5, 1912; d New York, Aug 12, 1992).

American composer, philosopher, writer and printmaker. He was educated in California and then made a study tour of Europe (1930–31), concentrating on art, architecture and music. On his return to the USA he studied music with Richard Buhlig, Adolph Weiss, Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg; in 1934 he abandoned abstract painting for music. An interest in extending the existing range of percussion instruments led him, in 1940, to devise the ‘prepared piano’ (in which the sound is transformed by the insertion of various objects between the strings) and to pioneer electronic sound sources.

Cage’s studies of Zen Buddhism and Indian philosophy during the 1940s resulted in a decision to remove intention, memory and personal taste from music, based on the Oriental concern with process rather than result. According equal status to both structured sound and noise, he treated silence (the absence of intentional sounds) as an element in its own right. In the early 1950s he began his close collaboration with the pianist ...

Article

Jean E. Feinberg

(b Cincinnati, OH, June 6, 1935).

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, illustrator, performance artist, stage designer and poet. He studied art at the Cincinnati Arts Academy (1951–3) and later at the Boston Museum School and Ohio University (1954–7). In 1957 he married Nancy Minto and the following year they moved to New York. Dine’s first involvement with the art world was in his Happenings of 1959–60. These historic theatrical events, for example The Smiling Workman (performed at the Judson Gallery, New York, 1959), took place in chaotic, makeshift environments built by the artist–performer. During the same period he created his first assemblages, which incorporated found materials. Simultaneously he developed the method by which he produced his best known work—paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures that depict and expressively interpret common images and objects.

Clothing and domestic objects featured prominently in Dine’s paintings of the 1960s, with a range of favoured motifs including ties, shoes and bathroom items such as basins, showers and toothbrushes (e.g. ...

Article

Vanina Costa

(b Sauve, Gard, Jan 17, 1926; d les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, nr Périgueux, Dec 2, 1987).

French performance artist, conceptual artist and writer. He studied economics and science at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1948 to 1951, but he was self-taught as an artist. Having first worked as a playwright during the second half of the 1950s, in 1960 he presented the first of his performances incorporating poetry. By 1962 he was involved with the Fluxus movement; sharing his fellow artists’ distaste for marketable art objects, he not only continued to create performances and other ephemeral works but also involved himself in conceptual gestures such as the foundation of a ‘République Géniale’. He made films and videos, sent enigmatic objects through the post as a form of correspondence art and worked against traditional ideas about the individuality of the artist by working collaboratively with others: in 1964 he and Joachim Pfeufer created the Poïpoïdrome, a group researching ‘permanent creation’ and the ‘principle of equivalence’, and in ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Florence, 1935).

American choreographer of Italian birth. An influential choreographer in post-modern dance, Forti’s approach and formal language had an important impact on experimental art of the early 1960s, from Happenings to Minimalism. Born in Italy, her family escaped during World War II to Los Angeles. She attended Reed College before moving in 1956 with her husband, Robert Morris, to San Francisco. There she attended the famous Dance Workshop of Anna Halprin (b 1920), whose innovative approach proved critically influential to a generation of renowned dancer–choreographers. When Forti and Morris moved to New York in 1959–60 she studied with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and, perhaps most importantly for her, Robert Ellis Dunn (1928–96). At this time, Forti also taught at a nursery school, and avidly studied the movement of children, importing it directly into her choreography.

A key member of the downtown experimental art scene, her work appeared in concerts at the Reuben Gallery (...

Article

Marco Livingstone

(b Nashville, TN, June 1, 1937).

American painter, sculptor, installation artist, draughtsman, performance artist and film maker. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1955), at the New School for Social Research in New York (1956) and under Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, MA (1957). Together with Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Robert Whitman (b 1935) and others, he was briefly an instrumental figure in the history of performance art in New York during the late 1950s with the Happenings he presented as early as 1957, most famously The Burning Building (1959), which took place in his loft at 148 Delancey Street (designated the Delancey Street Museum). With their narrative flow and elements of comedy, Grooms’s highly engaging performances were closer to the ‘painter’s theatre’ of Dine than to the events created by Kaprow or the Fluxus artists. The energy that went into these performances was soon redeployed into films, beginning with ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b New York, Oct 5, 1927; d Cologne, June 22, 1995).

American composer and collagist. Hansen was a New York-based artist and a key figure in the founding of Happenings. He served in the US Air Force between 1946 and 1948, and studied under the GI Bill at the Art Students’ League, Tulane University, and at Hans Hofmann’s Art School. In the 1950s, Hansen joined John Cage’s Experimental Composition class at the New School for Social Research in New York (1957–9) where he met fellow poets and artists crucial to the development of Concrete poetry, Happenings, and Fluxus (Jackson Mac Low (1922–2004), Allan Kaprow, George Brecht, Dick Higgins (1938–98), and Larry Poons). A classic Hansen score written in Cage’s class—and performed there, and later at the Living Theater—was his Alice Denham in 48 Seconds. Using a Cagean system where letters (e.g., of a name) could be replaced by numbers that would define limits for the piece—which sound, how loud, and for how long—Hansen replaced the letters of “Alice Denham” with numbers. Handing out toy noise-makers to the class, he placed the score (comprised of large numbers) on the classroom blackboard, to cue the sound. In ...

Article

Julia Robinson

Term first formally used by the American artist Allan Kaprow for his 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, presented in early October 1959 at the Reuben Gallery, New York City, as the inaugurating event for that space. (Informal “happening-like” experiments had been presented by Kaprow in April 1958 at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, and at the Reuben Gallery in a pre-opening piece called Intermission [June 1959].) Through 1960, the artists pioneering the Happenings form were: Kaprow, Robert Whitman (b 1935), Claes Oldenburg, Simone Forti, Red Grooms, Al Hansen and Jim Dine. Happenings appeared at experimental downtown spaces such as Groom’s “Delancey Street Museum” (his studio on the lower East Side), the Judson Church (on Washington Square) and the Reuben Gallery, as well as in New Jersey, at George Segal’s farm, and on the campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where Kaprow was teaching and Whitman was a student. According to Whitman, when Kaprow named ...

Article

John R. Neeson

Installation art is a hybrid of visual art practices including photography, film, video, digital imagery, sound, light, performance, happenings, sculpture, architecture, and painted and drawn surfaces. An installation is essentially site specific, three-dimensional, and completed by the interaction of the observer/participant in real time and space. The point of contention with any definition concerns the site specificity, ephemerality, and consequently ‘collectability’ of the work itself. One view has it that the category installation is presupposed on the transitory and impermanent, the second that an installation can be collected and re-exhibited as a conventional work of art.

In either case installation had its genesis in the environments and happenings devised by artists in the 1950s in New York and Europe (Nouveau Réalisme in France, Arte Povera in Italy). These in turn had antecedents in the architectural/sculptural inventions such as the various Proun rooms of El Lissitzky and the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters...

Article

Julia Robinson

American artists’ space located at 239 Thompson Street at the south edge of Washington Square in New York City. Beginning in the late 1950s the Judson Church hosted experimental avant-garde activities—art installations, Happenings, the beginnings of postmodern dance—launching a now celebrated group of artists, dancers, poets and composers, and fueling the radical downtown art scene. The platform of free expression Judson provided for the untested work of the 1960s generation, at a time when these artists were far from established, was a critical contribution to the invention, originality and ultimate international renown of these preeminent American artists.

Built in 1890 and designed by the renowned architect Stanford White (of McKim, Mead & White), the church’s original mission was to serve the immigrant population of Lower Manhattan with health and recreational programs as well as religious services. In the 1950s Reverend Bob Spike (1949–55) asked his seminary intern, Budd Scott, to go into the neighborhood and spend time with the locals—including a significant contingent of struggling artists—to discover their needs. Scott found out that the artists urgently needed a place to present their work. Judson’s national reputation for fostering radical artistic practice came under the tenure of Reverend Howard Moody (...

Article

Anna Bentkowska

(b Wielopole, nr Kraków, April 6, 1915; d Kraków, Dec 8, 1990).

Polish painter, draughtsman, theatre director and stage designer. He studied painting and stage design under Karol Frycz (1877–1963) at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, graduating in 1939. After the outbreak of World War II he organized in Kraków an experimental underground theatre (1942–4), exhibitions and art discussions. He painted and produced numerous drawings and stage designs for future performances. He was influenced by various artistic movements such as Constructivism, Expressionism and Futurism, as well as by the writings of Bruno Schultz (1892–1942) and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (ii), whose plays he later staged. In 1947 he went to Paris, where at the Palais de la Découverte he ‘discovered’ the infinity of nature that he examined through the microscopic images of cells and cross-sections of minerals. As the scientific approach to this was beyond his means, he began to explore the natural world by developing the concept of inner, intellectual and spiritual space through the act of artistic creation. He called it ‘the umbrellic space’. A series of abstract and metaphorical paintings and drawings followed, with the motif of an umbrella that could ‘fold’ and ‘unfold’ the space (e.g. ...

Article

revised by Emily Ruth Capper

(b Atlantic City, NJ, Aug 23, 1927; d Encinitas, CA, April 5, 2006).

American performance artist. From 1945 to 1949 he was at New York University as an art major and from 1947 to 1948 also studied painting with Hans Hofmann at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York. On graduation from New York University Kaprow began working for an MA in philosophy but left the following year to study for an MA in art history at Columbia University, New York, under Meyer Schapiro. On completing his thesis, Piet Mondrian: A Study in Seeing, in 1952 he began to devote himself to his own work and co-founded the Hansa Gallery in New York with other former students of Hofmann, holding his first one-man exhibition there in 1953. From 1953 to 1961 he taught art history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, where he helped create the group Fluxus, along with fellow professors Robert Watts and Geoffrey Hendricks, and undergraduates George Segal, Lucas Samaras, George Brecht, Robert Whitman, and Roy Lichtenstein. He then taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (...

Article

Midori Yoshimoto

(b New York, NY, 1933).

American printmaker, sound artist and performance artist. She was one of the founding members of Fluxus, the international avant-garde collective formed in 1962. Transferring from Middlebury College to Pratt Institute in New York, Knowles studied painting and drawing with Adolph Gottlieb and Richard Lindner and graduated in 1956. By the late 1950s she had lost interest in painting and burnt all her early paintings in a bonfire. It was then that she befriended artists Dick Higgins (1938–98), George Brecht and composer John Cage whose meditation on everyday life and music of indeterminacy inspired her to pursue a new artistic path.

After marrying in 1960, Knowles and Higgins were invited by George Maciunas to perform in the Fluxus inaugural concert series in Europe. There Knowles started to write her “Propositions,” radical reinterpretation of Cagean text scores, which transferred the artistic agency to the audience. Among her early events, Make a Salad...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Düsseldorf, April 11, 1939; d Düsseldorf, Nov 24, 1996).

German painter and dealer. He studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (19587ndash;62) and in 1963 co-staged two events, part exhibition and part happening, that betrayed the influence of both Pop art and the Fluxus movement. The first, Malerei und Grafik. Sonderausstellung, was organized with fellow graduates Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Manfred Kuttner in May of that year, in a disused shop at 31A Kaiserstrasse in Düsseldorf. The impact of popular contemporary trends from France, Britain and the USA was evident in the second happening that Lueg staged with Richter five months later, Leben mit Pop – eine Demonstration für den Kapitalischen Realismus, in a furniture department store (Möbelhaus Berges, Flingerstrasse 11, Düsseldorf). This featured the two artists as living sculptures alongside papier-mâché figures of American President John F. Kennedy and the art dealer Alfred Schmela, as well as works by Lueg, Richter and Joseph Beuys, amongst the furniture displays. The event was critical not only of the consumerism of post-war West Germany, but also of the art scene in Düsseldorf, which was dominated by Galerie and by the Zero group. Lueg’s subsequent work under the banner of ‘Capitalist Realism’ was a loose exploration of both popular imagery and commercial patterns, in paintings such as ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Kaunas, Lithuania, Nov 8, 1931; d Boston, MA, May 9, 1978).

American artist, architect and designer. Maciunias is best known as the key impresario of Fluxus, the international group of artists, composers, poets and performers who came together in 1962. Maciunas chose the name “Fluxus” to galvanize the radical activities of this group, and to define a sense of constant, dynamic, agitation and thus a politics for the work. Arriving in the USA in 1948, he studied graphic design at New York’s Cooper Union, architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA, and art history at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. At this time he developed vast, genealogical art history charts, which he called “Learning Machines.” He later used this model to situate Fluxus within the genealogy of 20th century avant-gardes.

A 1960 class in Electronic Music with Richard Maxfield at the New School for Social Research introduced Maciunas to the New York avant-garde. In 1961 he opened the AG Gallery on Madison Avenue, New York, asking ...