For Allan Kaprow, prodigious artist, theorist, and inventor of Happenings in the late ’50s, art and life were not separate. He wanted art to reflect life directly. While his Happenings did not always rise to the level of his intentions, when they did, the experience could prove exhilarating. One might say the same about Pollock, an influence on Kaprow, who admitted that not every painting during his breakthrough period was successful. Putting art within a course of action, and thereby presenting it as a mirror of life, can be precarious. Because Kaprow’s Happenings and Environments relied on people who were willing to perform, often self-consciously, within a given space or place, over a designated period of time, their success was never guaranteed. A great deal was left to chance, indeterminate interactions between people and materials, a lesson that Kaprow learned from another mentor, John Cage. Despite the risk, a certain element of chance is necessary not only for the survival of art, but also for the survival of human beings on this planet. The persistence of culture often depends on risking what we love.
William Pope.L, Yard (To Harrow), 1961/2009.
Tires and mixed media, installation view.
Image: Hannah Heinrich, © William Pope.L, Courtesy the Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Worth
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