The Sculpture Show

  • 17th December 2011 − 24th June 2012 | Modern One (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)

Allan Kaprow

Happenings and Performance Art

This display includes a number of posters, magazines and artists’ books relating to the documentation of Performance Art in general, and Allan Kaprow (1927-2006) in particular. Kaprow was an American painter, installation and performance artist who took the ‘Painting’ out of ‘Action Painting’ and, in October 1959, staged 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in New York.

Allan Kaprow’s path from painting to ‘Happening’ was one of rigorous inquiry. The Happenings of the late 1950s and following decades were specifically orchestrated to be directly experienced by the participants. Individuals received their instructions by mail, turned up and made their contribution, sometimes just by being there.

But how does one document that experience? There are photographic records, but even the throwaway materials used to publicise these events are a record – a poster here, an exhibition catalogue there. Sometimes even an artist’s book may have been produced to follow the event. These are all fragments that can be used to map the practice of Performance Art, and capture a sense of the ephemeral.

In 1963 Sean Hignett took part in a Happening staged by Allan Kaprow at the ‘International Drama Conference’ held at the McEwan Hall during the Edinburgh Festival. From then on, Kaprow continued to send Hignett instructions in the mail about Happenings, and much of the material on display here has been lent by him.

On display in Room 18, Modern One, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.