- Julia Robinson
(b Burlington, IA, 1923; d Martins Creek, PA, Sept 21, 1988).
American multimedia and performance artist. Watts was a pioneering figure in the development of Fluxus and Pop art . Before settling squarely into Fluxus, Watts was associated first with both because of his use of ready-made objects, his concern with space-time activation of the work and for the insertion of objects into performance frameworks. Watts was a pioneering figure in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s experimentation with new media (e.g., industrial plastics, aluminum foil) and emergent technologies as well as new distribution mechanisms. He trained as a mechanical engineer before turning full-time to art, studying in New York at the Art Students League, and at Columbia University, and receiving his MA in Art History (1951). Watts taught at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, from 1952 to 1984, where he had a significant influence on a generation of students who would produce some of the leading intermedia art of the 1960s and 1970s. His own art began at the cutting edge of new media experimentation—with works of the 1950s incorporating electric light, incandescent wire, random circuitry—and intelligently extending the critique established by the Duchampian readymade. In the early 1960s he made original contributions to the emergent vocabulary of everyday objects that would define advanced art of the 1960s. In particular, his deployment of photography—with actual objects to fracture the “real” (e.g., photographs of food and cutlery, mounted as a place setting in ...