Allan Kaprow

By: Alix Lambert
August 23, 2013

Kaprow photographed by Dennis Hopper in 1967
Kaprow photographed by Dennis Hopper in 1967

ALLAN KAPROW (1927–2006) was at the forefront of a conceptual art practice — which he was the first to call a “happening” — that helped inspire the evolution of performance and installation art. Kaprow decided that in art-making, the object isn’t necessary; he also disavowed the art gallery and museum. Working in non-traditional spaces, including public ones, he turned his attention to temporality — his art was ephemeral, and subject to the element of chance. He said: “Forget all the standard art forms — don’t paint pictures, don’t make poetry, don’t build architecture, don’t arrange dances, don’t write plays, don’t compose music, don’t make movies, and above all don’t think you’ll get a happening by putting all these together.” Another manifesto-like statement appears in his 1958 essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” where he urges artists to become “preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life, either our bodies, clothes, rooms, or, if need be, the vastness of Forty-second Street,” and furthermore to “utilize the specific substances of sight, sound, movements, people, odors, touch.” In blurring the line between art and life, he was ahead of his time.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Paul Otlet, Clifford Geertz.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).


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