FLUXUS at NYU (Grey Art Gallery)

Drawn exclusively from the Fales Library and the New York University Art Collection, Fluxus at NYU: Before and Beyond is conceived as a companion to the concurrent show, Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life. Fluxus founder George Maciunas saw his project as retaliating against the work of art as what he called a “non-functional commodity.” Fluxus at NYU focuses on work that relates to the key Fluxus criteria—linguistic proposition, score/instruction presented in lieu of the work of art, and modes of performance as the (often political) elaboration of this dematerialization of the medium-based commodity object. The score and performance-based practices of Fluxus have only recently begun to register in the canon of postwar art. At its core, Fluxus addresses the condition of authorship: What is the impact of commodification on the creative act? What are its formal, physical manifestations? How do we re-evaluate the object status of the work of art, under the impact of the real-time conditions of performance? Responses to these questions are now beginning to alter established readings of contemporaneous developments of the 1960s and beyond (starting with Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art, and reaching into contemporary art as it unfolds today). The Grey’s two exhibitions prompt us toward a new kind of thinking about Fluxus and its legacies. Reshuffling the categories that have defined advanced art of the 1960s, Fluxus at NYU: Before and Beyond takes Fluxus as its conceptual core, and offers a score- and performance-based perspective on developments in its wake.
            At this crucial time for scholarship, these NYU collections allow us to rethink the many sources for Fluxus—and how these were shared sources, which generated widely divergent practices and assaults on artistic conventions. At the same time, Fluxus at NYU reveals how intuitive activations of the readymade/everyday object—vastly complicating the legacy of Pop—along with the deployment of linguistic propositions and cues, through performance and performativity, remade the conceptual landscape of/for the late 20th century.

Fluxus at NYU: Before and Beyond is curated by Julia Robinson with Ellen Swieskowski (CAS ’11). Support is provided by the Abby Weed Grey Trust; Graduate School of Arts and Science; and the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends.

FLUXUS at NYU (Fales Library)

Fluxus at NYU: Before and Beyond, currently on view at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square East, draws from the Fales Library and the New York University Art Collection to complement the Grey’s concurrent exhibition, Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life. Presenting a selection of textual and photographic documentation of conceptual projects based in language and performance from the 1960s through the 1980s, Fluxus at NYU constructs a fragile constellation of related ideas—which have rarely been so pointedly juxtaposed. The works, plans, and documents on view, often fragmentary, speak to the ephemeral condition that has made such experimental practices resistant to scholarship. Often kept in museum archives—until recently the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate relegated Fluxus objects to their libraries—instructions, scores, props, and games pose particular challenges to art history and the general public alike. The project of showing, and making legible, what amounts to a puzzle of remaining evidence rather than a conventional work of art, sheds light on the archive’s function.  “The archive” as a structure—as a conscious approach toward the project of representation, requiring of the viewer a different use of time and focus—has achieved a new importance in current artistic practice (Prospectus: New York, an exhibition of the project archives of Ben Kinmont, on view in Fales’s adjacent Tracey/Berry Gallery, is one example of this). If the archive was made important by activities begun in the 1960s and the paper trail they left behind, the current exhibitions at Fales Library and the Grey Art Gallery offer a new opportunity to consider the archive’s permutations as a radical condition available to artists and audiences alike.

Fluxus at NYU: Before and Beyond is curated by Julia Robinson with Ellen Swieskowski (CAS ’11). Support is provided by the Abby Weed Grey Trust; Graduate School of Arts and Science; and the Grey’s Director’s Circle, Inter/National Council, and Friends.

Circa 1960

The photographs and documents here record the first presentations, around 1960, of works by the artists associated with Happenings—Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Allan Kaprow, and others—in the form of three-dimensional, room-scale installations doubling as walk-in works of art and/or as sets for performances. Contesting the dominance of modernist painting and sculpture of the 1950s, these initial experiments departed radically from the modernist notion of “purity” of media. In a decisive break from Abstract Expressionism—and amid the rising impact of John Cage—Oldenburg, Dine, Kaprow, and like-minded colleagues sought, literally, to insert time and action into the work of art.

The photographs by Martha Holmes were taken to accompany a review in Time magazine published on March 14, 1960. This brief article was one of the first to cover the historic shift toward a new art form. Time’s unnamed reporter vividly brings the ephemeral works back to life, filling in lost details. Describing the Judson Church space as “an obscure Greenwich Village basement” with slogans “plastered all over the walls,” the author dubs their presentations “a new kind of art show … half picture, half theater.” In discussing the work of thirty-two-year-old Kaprow, “one leader of the new movement,” the writer points to painting as the ground for deconstruction; the canvas becomes an object, made spatial, and theatrically lit: “Kaprow’s ‘painting in the shape of a theater’ got started by way of giant paste-ups. Then he moved the tatters forward and installed lights behind them. Suddenly, he had a stage.”

Oldenburg’s Snapshots from the City was “among the more surprising [works],” with its “garbage-strewn set … cardboard automobile, and retching noises.” Dine’s The Magic Room, presumably part of his The House, was “a shocking-pink and green affair with bedsprings hanging from the ceiling and … cardboard signs.” Reporting on Dine’s The Smiling Workman, the writer notes that the sign “I love what I am doing” was rendered in bright blue and orange, and that, immediately after painting it, the artist tipped the buckets of color over his head. We are also informed that Robert Whitman deployed burning sulfur in Duet for a Small Smell, causing audience members to cough and thus making them, in the artist’s words, “part of the act.”

Sectional Narratives (Grey)

Transcending Painting / Reformulating the  Subject of Art

The 1950s may be seen as the breaking point between modernism and postmodernism. Artists from a range of disciplines—from poetry to visual art, and from music to dance—began to process modernism’s promises and limitations, initiating a body of radical experimental work. The decade witnessed the rise of new paradigms in experimental composition, such as John Cage’s assault on unilateral authorship with his “silent” score 4’33” (1952) and Earle Brown’s proportionally notated and equally indeterminate “graphic” score, December 1952. But it was arguably not until the death of Jackson Pollock in 1956—an event as symbolic as it was actual—that modernism could be buried, painting could be relinquished, and the vast implications of both Pollock and Cage taken up by an emerging generation. Shortly thereafter, Robert Rauschenberg fractured the all-over expressive field of painting with fragmentary marks, and, eventually, the deployment of readymade objects (in what he called “Combine” painting). In another recoding of all-overness, Yayoi Kusama covered her canvases in circular organic forms she called “infinity nets,” before translating this field into physical installations, defining a charged psychic and bodily landscape as one of the singular statements of the 1960s.
            As Allan Kaprow noted in his landmark 1958 essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Pollock “destroyed painting.” In Kaprow’s eyes, Pollock had enlarged the painterly field toward an “environment,” but also dematerialized it as pure performance. The problem for Kaprow and his peers was how to make such a radical act of chance, performance, and dematerialization transferable. In 1956, Cage began teaching his experimental composition courses at New York’s New School for Social Research—conveying the concepts of chance-based composing and the indeterminate score (for which the terms are sketched but the outcome is unknown, as in his 4’33”) to students who were for the most part not trained musicians but rather artists and poets. They—including Jackson Mac Low, Allan Kaprow, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Al Hansen, and Robert Dunn—would import his principles into Concrete Poetry, Happenings, Events, Fluxus, and Judson Dance. The year 1958 saw the “young masters” of the new generation, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, team up with the filmmaker Emile de Antonio to arrange the 25-Year Retrospective Concert of the Music of John Cage at New York’s Town Hall. Spanning Cage’s percussion work, his prepared piano, and the then-new model of indeterminacy, this marked the first comprehensive presentation of Cage’s oeuvre, and an increasing awareness of the conceptual scope of his project. Such was the expanded creative field that set the stage for Fluxus artists and their contemporaries.

The Judson Gallery: The New Shape of “Painting”

Beginning in 1957, the Judson Church on Washington Square created a space for art, in the most profound sense. Claes Oldenburg, who was working nearby in the library at Cooper Union, was the first to exhibit at the Judson Gallery. His show, Drawings, Sculptures, Poems, hinted at the sketchy, ephemeral, and linguistic scaffolding that would be constructed around the art object to renovate seemingly stagnant medium conventions. In late 1959, Oldenburg and Jim Dine started conceiving projects grounded in real space—literally, the space of the church’s small basement on Thompson Street but also a new conceptual space.  Nonetheless, painting remained an anchor for ushering in new ideas. They initiated a program of events inspired by the title “Ray Gun,”which they presented with the tagline “Annihilate—Illuminate.” Though “Ray Gun” is now associated with Oldenburg, at this early moment it included multifarious artistic activities and experimentation, not unlike “Fluxus.” As the spring 1960 Calendar shows, “Ray Gun” was the umbrella term for an array of events, performances, and installations, by any artist who wished to participate.
            Dine’s and Oldenburg’s first major installations were titled The House and The Street, respectively. The public was invited to witness their breakthrough into a new art: “painting in the shape of a house,” and “painting in the form of a city street,” as well as performances, or  “painting in the shape of theater.” In retaining the term “painting,” they made manifest their expansion of existing artistic criteria. Oldenburg’s The Street, which he conceived as a “floor collage,” operated in three dimensions, with figures and objects scaled as though encountered on a real street: a person at point-blank range (large), a truck passing in the distance (small), and so on. The gallery’s white walls stood for the air between the “figures.” The Street also served as the set for a performance, Snapshots from the City, in which Oldenburg and his partner Patty Muschinski’s rapid movements were intermittently arrested by sudden illuminations. Dine presented his painterly performance The Smiling Workman in his The House installation. While performances at the Judson Gallery were recoding painting, drawing also took on a performative function, retooled as a medium for exchange and communication. Oldenburg created cartoon-sketched paper “money,” which visitors could use to buy junk—a sly parody of the commodification of art. Oldenburg’s and Dine’s drawings spilled out the Judson Gallery’s door—covering the Thompson Street façade—in the form of graffiti that functioned as advertising, while many cartoon-like programs and flyers announced other events and shows.
            In late 1959, Allan Kaprow had come to Judson to advise the planning committee. He had just “invented” the term Happenings with the inaugural show 18 Happenings in Six Parts at the Reuben Gallery on Fourth Avenue. In 1960 he staged his Coca-Cola Shirley Cannonball?, which featured a large foot prop taken from a painting by Joan Mirò, in the Judson gymnasium. More performances ensued. Oldenburg continued with happenings created as part of his Ray Gun Spex (a comic-strip allusion to “spectacles.”)

Linguistic Performativity: Between Concrete Poetry, Experimental Composition, and Fluxus

The performative deployment of language, which would become so crucial to the expanded arts of the 1960s, has deep roots in Concrete Poetry. Central to this story is Jackson Mac Low, who infused his own poetic project with political radicalism in the mid-1950s and progressively elaborated it through Cagean methods of non-intention such as chance and indeterminacy. An established poet and committed anarchist when he entered Cage’s class in 1956, Mac Low developed a disarming poetic model of political engagement. Mac Low’s poetry is “performative” in the true sense of the word. In actively restructuring language, inventing new models of articulation,his poems intervened into familiar speech to estrange it, irreversibly radicalizing the art of poetry.
            Language loomed large in the work of artists in the Cagean circle. Soon-to-be Fluxus member Dick Higgins created plays with elaborate content and narrative color, while George Brecht wrote brief textual scores framing quotidian incidents, which he initially defined as “music” and later as “events.” Like Mac Low, both Higgins and Brecht were members of Cage’s “Experimental Composition” class. Robert Watts (another future Fluxus artist), who taught at Rutgers University with Allan Kaprow and was a friend and colleague of Brecht’s, also composed event scores, which he and Brecht mailed to friends. In 1962–63 Watts and Brecht formed a proto-Fluxus framework for collective activity (compare the “Ray Gun” idea), titled YAM, or The Yam Festival. Like Oldenburg and Dine, Brecht and Watts generated a YAM Calendar to announce a series of artistic events (culminating in MAY 1963—YAM spelled backward). They also published a YAM newspaper. In retrospect, the event/concert planning frameworks of “Ray Gun,” “YAM,” and “Fluxus” defined a new model of non-institutionalized art initiatives. All of this developed parallel to Pop Art, while constantly transforming it. Watts’s Star-Spangled Hot Dog and chromed Pears were first interpreted as Pop Art but are much closer to the ironic, counter-model operations of Fluxus.
            From around 1960, the Judson Poets’ Theater hosted linguistic experiments that laid the groundwork for the emphatic use of language in Fluxus as much as in Judson Dance (in the work of Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer, for example). Indeed, the poetics that flourished at Judson heralded a groundbreaking interdisciplinarity for advanced art of the 1960s, and for postmodernism at large. Other important venues complemented the Judson activities. The Living Theater, founded earlier, staged performances by artists from Rauschenberg to Brecht to Higgins and many others, along with poets and composers (including Cage). Emerging composer La Monte Young arranged interdisciplinary concert series at George Maciunas’s AG Gallery and other sites, and published (with Jackson Mac Low) the landmark statement on interdisciplinary activity—including art, dance, poetry, and composing—titled An Anthology. Maciunas designed the book, with its memorable cover, layout, and typesetting. Less known is that An Anthology helped to define Fluxus in its initial stages, in particular its connection to new music and experimental composition. When Maciunas relocated to Germany in late 1961, he took the pages, and launched the first Fluxus concerts with those very scores.

Judson Dance: Artists In Concert. Part 1: Robert Dunn and His Students

The first Concert of Dance, by fourteen young choreographers, took place at the Judson Church space—soon to be dubbed “The Judson Dance Theater”—on July 6, 1962. As radical as the preceding events in poetry and visual art, this sparked the transformation of modern choreography and initiated postmodern dance. A Concert of Dance drew upon pieces developed in the choreography courses of Robert Dunn (1960–62) and represented a professional debut for most of the students. Having studied with John Cage, Dunn brought Cage’s principles into experimental dance. Using a particularly inventive approach, he saw his class as a “clearinghouse for structures derived from various sources of contemporary action: dance, music, painting, sculpture, Happenings, literature.” Dunn’s classes included some of the leading innovators of ’60s dance, such as Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Elaine Summers, and Trisha Brown. Once the group began performing at Judson, their conversations and debates continued as a weekly workshop of unfolding ideas.
            Employing “auxiliary” materials in his class, Dunn prompted students to develop works using non-traditional approaches. One of these was Cage’s (relatively new) Fontana Mix (1959), an indeterminate, do-it-yourself score comprised of instructions printed on paper and transparencies. Lines and dots defined variables of sound and duration—which the performer then assembled, using the provided grid to plot out their own version. New scores by Cage’s peers, such as Earle Brown, were also used in Dunn’s choreography class. Their unique mix of indeterminate, and graphic, proportional notation (performers did not need to read music) enabled many new elements to enter the space of “composition.” In this expanded field, composition, music, dance, and other arts began to intersect.
            Yvonne Rainer employed Cage’s Fontana Mix, along with elements from Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies, for her dance Three Satie Spoons (1961). Where Cage used imperfections in his paper, making markings and then superimposing transparencies printed with matrices to articulate sound, Rainer adapted these strategies to dance moves. Steve Paxton, a luminously inventive artist and an important influence on fellow students, developed actions that dovetail with quotidian aspects of Fluxus performance. One of Paxton’s dance pieces involved walking onto the stage, sitting on a bench, and eating a sandwich. Simone Forti, who was profoundly influential on the phenomenological side of Minimalism, was another key figure, crossing disciplines. Also in Dunn’s dance class, she contributed to the sculptural-temporal vocabulary of the visual artists who were generating happenings and events. As early as 1960, Forti performed two “dance constructions” titled See-Saw and Rollers, on a program with Oldenburg and Dine at the Reuben Gallery. Several months later, she joined a program of new composers organized by La Monte Young at Yoko Ono’s downtown loft space. In metabolizing the phenomenological force of her own intuitive vocabulary—drawing from small children and animals she observed at the zoo, as well as from happenings’ energy and object relationships—Forti was a conduit for some of the most advanced and intuitive physical/temporal/plastic innovations of the time.

Judson Dance: Artists In Concert. Part 2: James Waring

In this same period, another important class, akin to Cage’s in the realm of dance and comprised of an equally diverse and talented mix of young artists, was choreographer James Waring’s “experimental” composition course (1959–60) at the Living Theater, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. Considered eccentric and unorthodox, Waring played a key role in Judson Dance’s aesthetic, in particular, in its privileging of “found” or “de-skilled” everyday movements as legitimate choreographic elements. Rainer, a class member who made some of her first dance appearances in Waring’s pieces, noted that he was interested in using random untrained protagonists (along with trained dancers). (This has a parallel in Cage, who famously smiled in deep approval when faced with a class full of artists who had no training in music.) Such was the generative milieu and its anti-conventional means at this inventive moment. Waring enlisted visual artists—including Happenings and future Fluxus artists, such as Robert Whitman, George Brecht, Al Hansen, and Robert Watts—to create set designs, costumes, and posters for his dance pieces. In Waring’s Peripateia, Brecht’s “scenery” consisted of a window with descending flags behind it, smoke, balloons, and colored electric lights, all appearing at moments throughout the dance. Critic Jill Johnston, one of the most progressive and open commentators on the new choreography at the Judson and the Living Theater, called Peripateia “a happening with dance as the protagonist.” While Waring was not an official member of the Judson Dance Theater—he had developed his oeuvre in advance of these artists and was, as David Vaughan has called him, a kind of “guru” for many of them—he contributed numerous adventurous elements that helped to define its particular means of radical invention. As Judson Dance historian Sally Banes has noted:
Perhaps even more important than the individual dances given at Judson concerts was the attitude that anything might be called a dance and looked at as a dance; the work of a visual artist, a filmmaker, a musician might be considered a dance, just as the activities done by a dancer… might be reexamined and ‘made strange’ because they were framed as art.

Minimal Beginnings: Task, Score, Grid

An ad in the Village Voice with a typographical error in the artist’s name constitutes rare evidence of the close links—if not conceptual lines—that existed between artists who have since been quarantined by art history; either in conventional categories such as painting, sculpture, and performance, or in designated groupings such as Fluxus, Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and others. “DAN FLAVEN [sic] Constructions and Watercolors” at the Judson Gallery signaled a genre mix like that of Oldenburg’s show at the same location a year and a half earlier. That Flavin’s signature minimalist fluorescent tubes have never been linked to the everyday materials initiated by the artists creating happenings, events, installations, and concrete poetry, may simply be a blind spot of the historicization (if not commodification) process. The same may be said for the performative demythification of painting in Frank Stella’s task-based, non-compositional canvases, begun in 1959. Flavin’s “hardware” constructions, Stella’s deductive structures cueing his own action or process, and Agnes Martin’s grids look rather different when read in the context of the reductive strategies of advanced art in what was then a very small art world. Separated from pure painting, sculpture, or drawing, they become altogether different propositions. Set in relation to the anti-illusionism and non-intentionality that many of their downtown peers established via the structure of the score, the radical implications are greatly amplified. Recent scholarship has framed Robert Morris’s phenomenological minimalism as at once more cerebral and more physical—than that of more object-oriented peers such as Donald Judd, for example—by virtue of his Duchampianism, his Cageanism, and his close ties with dancers. In a similar vein, the dimension of radical performativity inherent in early minimalist strategies materializes in a new way when set into a matrix of contemporaneous moves with which they are rarely compared. Thus, the catalytic function of Stella’s lines and Martin’s grids, in changing the way painting acts, unraveling that medium’s conventions irreversibly, becomes lucid, even striking, in the wider landscape of score-based, durational imperatives and gridded variables.

Performative Instructions–Activist Poetics–Conceptual Propositions

The transition from the textual operations of Concrete Poetry and the performance instructions of Fluxus scores to the language art of the late 1960s involved many artists crisscrossing disciplines. Like An Anthology before it, Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer’s 0 to 9 magazine (running six issues, 1967–69) united disparate figures in the space of the printed page. Acconci disrupted the categories in his own trajectory between poetry and performance. He brought the legacies of Concrete Poetry into the poetics of the late 1960s by once more treating the page and typed text like an object. Mimeographed, 0 to 9 had a dimension of uniformity; Acconci, like Maciunas, preferred an IBM typewriter. While Maciunas’ IBM font functioned to concretize a spectrum of ephemeral works, Acconci’s typewriter unified vastly disparate writings with a willful eclecticism. In his poetry, concreteness became a physical thing, which would implicate not only type, page, and sound, but also his own body and the actual space of the street within the reality of his “sculptural” poetics.
            The literal expansion of the printed field and its cold performativity are expressed in Acconci’s statement that poetry should “use language to cover a space not dis-cover a meaning,” which appeared in a 1972 issue of Avalanche—another important venue for advanced conceptual practices. This retooling of semantics constitutes one important nexus between earlier concrete poetry models, Fluxus textual scores, and Conceptual Art proper, all elaborating a materializationof language, which would culminate in Robert Smithson’s concept of “printed matter.” With ties to Fluxus, Acconci expanded the project of performance into the conceptual art territory of administrative language, and the 1970s language of video. In 0 to 9 he underscores rarely observed links by publishing the work of figures like Jackson Mac Low, Fluxus artist and poet Emmett Williams, Adrian Piper, Robert Barry, and Sol LeWitt (this was the first appearance of his famous “Sentences on Conceptual Art”). As the 0 to 9 archive at Fales Library shows, with all its snippets of diverse language works and poetry, and reams of correspondence, that publication managed to restore the gregarious mix of innovation touched upon in Brecht and Watts’s YAM Festival five years earlier—likewise embracing a much wider circle than the artists’ own immediate associates. Acconci, and others, wrote poems that brought the conceptual proposition literally off the page and into the street, making way for a new activation of the parameters of the textual cue, and a new realization of task-oriented art that would be developed in various ways during the 1970s.

The 1970s: Re-engaging the Street, The Tasks of Institutional Critique. Part 1: George Maciunas

Around 1968, George Maciunas began expanding his Fluxus collectivist ideal in material, practical ways, by procuring industrial spaces in an area of downtown Manhattan below Houston Street, indentified by the Fire Department as “Hell’s Hundred Acres.” On a shoestring budget, Maciunas conducted makeshift renovations and developed the first co-operative living (“co-ops”), creating the artist base and neighborhood that would become known as SoHo. Constantly blending art and life activities, Maciunas transformed the streets of SoHo into the perpetual “theater” of Fluxus performance. From his new headquarters at 80 Wooster Street—which he shared with lifelong friend Jonas Mekas’s Film-Makers’ Cinematheque (now Anthology Film Archives)—Maciunas briefly “realized” his utopian ideal of collectivism, while the Fluxus events expanded and elaborated the “institutional critique” that had been inherent in the group’s project since its founding. Fluxus performances in the 1970s took many new turns, conceptually as well as literally. One series created by Maciunas and a group of Fluxus artists living nearby comprised brilliantly ironic, even performative, Flux-Tours of SoHo at the cusp of its propulsion to world art capital. The Flux-Tour pictured here, a “Tour of the Galleries” conducted by Fluxus artist Larry Miller, involved precise observations and descriptions of everything except the art. Explanations ranged from details about gallery logos, to an analysis of the effect of the white wall as a backdrop for sculpture (in a show of works by Robert Morris at Sonnabend Gallery), to discussions of renovations to the then-new gallery spaces, to recitations of current Artforum reviews.

The 1970s: Re-engaging the Street, The Tasks of Institutional Critique. Part 2: Daniel Buren and Christopher D’Arcangelo

Meanwhile, in the expanded field of post-Minimalist and post-Conceptual practices, other artists were developing their own forms of institutional critique. French artist Daniel Buren had begun his street interventions—deploying “sandwich men” wearing Buren’s signature awning-stripe boards—in the streets of Paris in the May ’68 period. In the 1970s, a series of his Ballets were conducted in New York streets by a contingent of young “dancer”/artists, including Christopher D’Arcangelo, and photographed by Louise Lawler. Lawler’s own radical and precise perspective, as it met up with the radical acts of her peers, is already visible here. This project came just prior to the coalescence of her defining work of (what might be called) institutional-critical photography—if we can think of Lawler’s subjects, the whole art system, collectors as much as successful artists, as “institutions” —and to her being labeled an artist of the so-called “pictures generation.” In Lawler’s frame, Buren’s striped sandwich-board panels enter into an incidental dialogue with actual menu boards at a hot-dog stand. At another moment of the ballet, they are provocatively counterpoised with the vertical lines comprising the austere columns of Wall Street “power” architecture. As the photographer captures other flags, the idea of “flag” becomes a poignant subject: downtown, Buren’s vertical stripes agitate below the fluttering stars and stripes of American flags suspended from buildings; uptown, they function in radical contrast to the landmark banners along the Museum of Modern Art’s Fifty-third Street façade.
            The artist Christopher D’Arcangelo, Buren’s then-assistant, played a central role in planning these Ballets. At the same time, D’Arcangelo was creating his own critical interventions in downtown spaces: maps, receipts, and instructions allow us to piece together the elements through which his fragile project was suspended. D’Arcangelo’s Thirty Days Work (1977–78),  consisted of the day-labor of himself and Peter Nadin in renovating loft spaces—spackling, painting walls, and so on—with the resulting void designated as their contribution as artists “surviving a capitalist art world.” The artists sent out documentation mostly in calendar form, along with invitations for viewings, without ever giving the “audience” the satisfaction of knowing whether or not this should be considered art. Such a voiding, delivering smooth, freshly painted white walls as the result of time spent, was one extraordinary (non-)realization of D’Arcangelo’s avowedly anarchist position. In retrospect, it functions ideally with the […] ellipses he deployed in his writing, and with his contribution to a culminating exhibition of 1978—with Lawler, Adrian Piper, and Cindy Sherman—at Artists Space in SoHo, for which he withdrew his name and left blank spaces as his anonymous presence (or absence).

From Performance to Spectacle: Stuart Sherman at Washington Square

The exhibition’s final section brings us back to the street, back to Washington Square, to the theater-derived performances of Stuart Sherman, which he dubbed Spectacles. A subtext all along, theatrical devices entered art from 1960 on to rupture the fixity of painting and the passive, contemplative mode of viewing it imposed. This added dimension of unfolding time drew the audience into the artwork. Resisting Kaprow’s term “Happenings,” Oldenburg created the “Ray Gun Spex,” Dine used the term “painter’s theater,” and Robert Whitman defined his works in the happening vein as “theater pieces.” For their scores and performances cueing simple, everyday actions, Fluxus artists used terms such as “event” (Brecht) or “proposition” (Alison Knowles). The readymade movements of the Judson Dance Theater aimed at the “disenchantment” of modern dance techniques. From this language of the body, Robert Morris introduced physicality and temporality into his phenomenological mode of Minimalism. Indeed, this was at the heart of Michael Fried’s landmark critique of Minimalism, “Art and Objecthood” (1968), which accused it of both “literalism” and “theatricality.”
            All through the history surveyed here, theatrical components are enlisted into other arts to advance them, to deliver new challenges to the audience as well as the artist. If theater elements were first leveled against conventions, and then against institutions, the culminating use of theater was poised against a new condition: Spectacle. Brilliantly, Stuart Sherman used the term “spectacle”—both an old-fashioned moniker for theater and perhaps the most apocalyptic and accurate diagnosis of our alienated, capital-driven, contemporary image-scape (as Guy Debord defined it in his 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle). Sherman’s Spectacles, conducted in downtown spaces and outdoors in Washington Square, confronted viewers with movingly modest, disarmingly methodical actions. He described them as “recontexualizations” of objects; they were also “re-enchantments” of spectatorial experience. Debord’s Spectacle was defined by false time (the “pseudo-cyclical” time of reified action, enforced by capital), and crucially, by the imposition of distance. Sherman’s Spectacles insisted on intimacy. Like a deadpan micro-magician working atop a table with sleight of hand, Sherman did not trick the audience, he tricked the macro-structure of spectacle. In his intimate space, with intimate interactions, he generated a “magic” that Fluxus artist Robert Filliou might have embraced as part of the unlearning project he deemed the essential task of the artist. Watching Sherman, one becomes conscious of his continually creating a “frame” for what he was presenting, one necessary to his performative intervention. Sherman’s “frame” was most often defined by the rectangular space of the folding TV tray table he used, or the suitcase that contained his many prop-objects, but sometimes it was evoked by the format of the screen (TV or monitor), or as a metaphorical frame we feel when watching him but cannot always name. In the 1970s and ’80s, Sherman grasped the need to use theater as a means of re-performing subject-object relations, recognizing the massive loss wrought by a saturated image-world that had squandered touch, direct perception, and the self-determination awakened in subjective time.

Exhibition Checklist (Grey)

TRANSCENDING PAINTING / REFORMULATING THE SUBJECT OF ART

Jackson Pollock
Untitled (#5), 1944–45 (printed posthumously, 1967)
Engraving with drypoint
13 3∕4 x 19 3∕4 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Lee Krasner Pollock, 1979.47

Jackson Pollock
Untitled (#6), 1944–45 (printed posthumously, 1967)
Engraving with drypoint
19 15∕16 x 13 5∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Lee Krasner Pollock, 1979.48

Jackson Pollock
Untitled (#7), 1944–45 (printed posthumously, 1967)
Engraving with drypoint
19 3∕4 x 27 3∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Lee Krasner Pollock, 1979.53

John Cage
4’33”, 1952 (reprinted 2011)
Offset by C. F. Peters Corporation
12 x 9 in.
Fales Library, New York University. Gift of Julia Robinson

Robert Rauschenberg
Untitled (formerly titled Collage with Horse), 1957
Oil, plain and printed papers, wood, and fabric on canvas
31 x 37 x 2 ¼ in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Philip Johnson, 1961.34

Program for The 25-Year Retrospective Concert of the Music of John Cage, organized by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Emile de Antonio, at Town Hall, New York, 1958
Designed by George Avakian
With introductory texts, scores, and photographs
11 ½ x 11 ½ in.
Private collection

Yayoi Kusama
No. Red A 1960, 1960
Oil on canvas
71 x 63 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Silvia Pizitz, 1962.33

John Cage
Fontana Mix, 1959 (reprinted 2011)
Offset by C. F. Peters Corporation
12 x 9 in.
Fales Library, New York University. Gift of Julia Robinson

THE JUDSON GALLERY: THE NEW SHAPE OF “PAINTING”

Jim Dine
The Smiling Workman, 1959
Documentation of performance at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jim Dine
The Smiling Workman, 1959
Poster for performance at Judson Gallery
Ink on cardboard
8 ½ x 6 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg
Two-Man Show, 1959           
Exhibition poster
Offset
10 ½ x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Allan Kaprow
Coca Cola, Shirley Cannonball?, 1960
Documentation of performance in gymnasium at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
“Ray Gun” Comics, 1960
Artist’s book
8 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
“Ray Gun” Spring Calendar, 1960
Typescript
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library,
New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Ray Gun, announcements for performances at Judson Gallery,
1960
Vintage photocopies of original drawings, on colored paper
Each 8 ½ x 2 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Ray Gun money, 1960
From The Street, installation at Judson Gallery
Vintage photocopies of original drawings, on colored paper
Each 2 x 4 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
The Street/Snapshots from the City, 1960
Documentation of performance at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jim Dine
The House, 1960
Documentation of installation at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Untitled (Zapizmo), 1960
Artist’s book
8 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

LINGUISTIC PERFORMATIVITY:
BETWEEN CONCRETE POETRY, EXPERIMENTAL COMPOSITION, AND FLUXUS

Jackson Mac Low
Notes for Biblical Poems, n.d.
Graphite on paper
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jackson Mac Low
A Biblical Poem, 1954-55
Vintage photocopy
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jackson Mac Low
Methods for Reading “Biblical Poems,” 1968
Typescript
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Chronology of performances, Judson Poets’ Theater,
1961-66
Photocopy
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Poster for 3rd Rail, exhibition at Judson Gallery, 1963–64
Vintage photocopy on colored paper
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Program for Asphodel / What Happened, performances at Judson Poets’ Theater, 1963
Vintage photocopy
8 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

George Brecht
Water Yam, 1963 (reprinted 1986)
Event scores composed 1959-63
Cardboard box containing paper cards printed with event scores
1 ¾ x 9 ½ x 9 in.
Private collection

George Brecht and Robert Watts
“YAM” Calendar, 1963
Color offset (facsimile)
22 x 8 ½ in.
Courtesy Robert Watts Studio Archive

George Brecht and Robert Watts
“YAM” NewsPAYPaper, 1963
Offset on colored paper
29 x 6 in.
Robert Watts Studio Archive

Philip Corner
Flares, 1963
Ink and watercolor on paper
5 ½ x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

An Anthology, 1963
Designed by George Maciunas
Published by La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, with contributions by George Brecht, Earle Brown, John Cage, Henry Flynt, Simone Forti, Ray Johnson, Yoko Ono, Dieter Roth, Emmett Williams, and others
(With facsimile pages)
8 ¼ x 9 in.
Private collection

Robert Watts
Pears, 1964
Chrome and ceramic plate
Pears (2): 6 x 2 ½ in.
Ceramic Plate: 6 ¾ x 10 ½ in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of David Whitney, 1969.72

Robert Watts
Star-Spangled Hot Dog, 1964
Mixed media (wax and glitter)
3 x 6 x 2 ¼ in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Anonymous Gift, 1969.30

JUDSON DANCE: ARTISTS IN CONCERT

James Waring
Documentation of performances at Judson Dance Theater, n.d.
Photographs by Terry L. Schute
Contact sheet
10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Earle Brown
December 1952, 1952 (enlarged 1990)
Tape on paper
7 3∕4 x 10 ft.
Fales Library, New York University

Earle Brown
Notes for December 1952, 1952
Offset on colored paper (facsimile)
11 x 8 ½ in.
Courtesy of Daniel Goode

Program for A Concert of Dance, performance at Judson Gallery, 1962
Typescript
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Invitation to Varieties, happenings at the Reuben Gallery, 1960
With Jim Dine, A Shining Bed; Simone [Forti] Morris, See Saw; and Claes Oldenburg, Chimneyfive and Erasers
Offset (facsimile, recto and verso)
10 ½ x 8 ¼ in.
Courtesy of a private collection

A Concert of Dance chronology, Judson Dance Theater, 1962-65, for James Waring at Judson: A Chronology, prepared by the Judson Arts Program Archive Committee, April 1978
Typescript
14 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Announcements for A Concert of Dance #3 and #4, Judson Dance Theater, 1963
Vintage photocopy
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Robert Morris
String and Arizona, from A Concert of Dance #6, 1963
Documentation of performances at Judson Dance Theater
Photographs by Al Giese (reprinted 1981)
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

James Waring at Judson: A Chronology, prepared by the Judson Arts Program Archive Committee, April 1978
Offset
14 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

James Waring
Poster for four new ballets at Judson Dance Theater, 1963
Offset
14 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Program for JDT Presents Yvonne Rainer and Robert Morris, performances at Judson Dance Theater, 1965
Vintage photocopy on colored paper
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Robert Morris
Waterman Switch, 1965
Documentation of performance at Judson Dance Theater
Photograph by Peter Moore
10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Yvonne Rainer
Parts of Some Sextets, 1965
Documentation of performance at Judson Dance Theater
Photograph by Peter Moore
10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Simone Forti
Handbook in Motion, 1974
Halifax: The Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and New York: New York University Press
Series editor Kasper Koenig, book editor Emmett Williams
(With facsimiles of illustrations, left to right: Platforms, 1961, with Robert Rauschenberg in foreground; Robert Morris and Simone Forti in See Saw)
9 x 6 ¾ in.
Private collection

MINIMAL BEGINNINGS: TASK, SCORE, GRID

Announcement for Dan Flaven [sic for Dan Flavin], Constructions and Watercolors at Judson Gallery, Village Voice, May 8, 1961
Vintage photocopy
5 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Announcement for Dan Flavin, Constructions and Watercolors, exhibition at Judson Gallery, 1961
Offset
5 x 13 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Agnes Martin
Wood #4, 1964
Ink on paper
9 x 9 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Edward Albee, 1970.110

Frank Stella
Arundel Castle (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117g

Frank Stella
Arbeit Macht Frei (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117c

Frank Stella
Bethlehem’s Hospital (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117h

Frank Stella
Die Fahne Hoch! (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117d

Frank Stella
Getty Tomb (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117a

Frank Stella
Tomlinson Court Park (from Black Series I), 1967 (from painting series of 1959)
Lithograph, 45/100
15 ½ x 21 7∕8 in.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Paul J. Schupf, 1970.117f

PERFORMATIVE INSTRUCTIONS –ACTIVIST POETICS–CONCEPTUAL PROPOSITIONS

Vito Acconci
Twelve Minutes, n.d.
Typescript
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Adrian Piper
If you are a slow reader, n.d.
Typescript
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Dan Graham
Discreet Scheme Without Memory, 1966
Typescript and graphite on paper
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Anonymous
Trash Poem, for “Street Works” supplement to 0 to 9, 1969
Offset
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Vito Acconci
A Situation Using Streets, Walking, Running, 1969
Offset
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Vito Acconci
A Situation Using Streets, Walking, Glancing, 1969
Offset
11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Vito Acconci, John Giorno, and others
Posters for “Street Works” supplement to 0 to 9, 1969
Offset
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

John Giorno
From the Kama Sutra of John Giorno, 1969
Offset on colored paper
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

John Giorno
Groovy and Linda, 1969
Typescript
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Sol LeWitt
Sentences on Conceptual Art, 1969
Mimeograph on colored paper
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
0 to 9 Archive, Fales Library, New York University

THE 1970s: RE-ENGAGING THE STREET, THE TASKS OF INSTITUTIONAL CRITIQUE

Daniel Buren
Ballet #7 (Wall Street), 1975
Documentation of street performance, New York
Photographs by and courtesy of Louise Lawler
Each 8 x 10 in.

Daniel Buren
Exhibition catalogue for Weber Gallery Presents “Seven Ballets in Manhattan,” 1975
8 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Christopher D’Arcangelo Papers, Fales Library, New York University

Poster for Free Flux-Tours, 1976-77
Designed by George Maciunas
Offset
12 x 19 in.
Fales Library, New York University. Gift of the Robert Watts Studio Archive, New York

Larry Miller
Flux-Tour of Galleries, SoHo, New York, May 8, 1976
Photodocumentation by Larry Miller and Sara Seagull
© Sara Seagull/Larry Miller 1976
Each 8 x 10 in.
Fales Library, New York University. Gift of the Robert Watts Studio Archive, New York

Daniel Buren
Ballet #8 (Wall Street), 1977
Documentation of street performance, New York
9 ½ x 7 in., 12 x 9 in., 8 ½ x 11 in., 8 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Christopher D’Arcangelo Papers, Fales Library, New York University

Daniel Buren
Ballet #11 (Grand Central to the Museum of Modern Art), 1978
Documentation of street performance, New York
9 ½ x 7 in., 11 x 9 in., 8 ½ x 11 in.
Christopher D’Arcangelo Papers, Fales Library, New York University

                       , Louise Lawler, Adrian Piper, and Cindy Sherman
Announcement for group show at Artists Space, 1978
Postcards
Each 3 ½ x 5 ½ in.
Christopher D’Arcangelo Papers, Fales Library, New York University

                       , Louise Lawler, Adrian Piper, and Cindy Sherman
Exhibition catalogue for group show at Artists Space, 1978
9 x 6 in.
Christopher D’Arcangelo Papers, Fales Library, New York University

FROM PERFORMANCE TO SPECTACLE: STUART SHERMAN AT WASHINGTON SQUARE

Stuart Sherman
The First Spectacle (selections), 1975
U-matic transferred to DVD, 24:46 min., black-and-white, sound
Stuart Sherman Papers, Fales Library, New York University

Stuart Sherman
Artistic Statement, n.d.
Vintage photocopy
12 x 8 ¼ in.
Stuart Sherman Papers, Fales Library, New York University

Stuart Sherman
On Performance, Film, and Sculpture, n.d.
Vintage photocopy
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
Stuart Sherman Papers, Fales Library, New York University

Exhibition Checklist (Fales)

Chronology, art archive files, Judson Gallery, 1957–59
Typescript
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Judson Studio letterhead, c. 1959
Offset
Each 11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Paddy Chayevsky viewing exhibition by Claes Oldenburg, Drawings, Sculptures, Poems, Judson Gallery
Inscribed “The Village Voice 1959”
Vintage photocopy
4 x 4 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

X-Mas Show, 1959
Poster for an exhibition at Judson Gallery
Offset
8 ½ x 11 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Allan Kaprow
Meeting minutes, Planning Committee, Judson Gallery, November 2, 1959
Vintage photocopy
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Drawings, Sculptures, Poems, 1959
Exhibition flyer
Offset
8 ½ x 11 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Daniel Spoerri, Jim Dine, and others
Drawings and Prints, 1959
Exhibition poster
Offset
11 x 8 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Dick Higgins
Edifices, Cabarets and Contributions, c. 1960
Documentation of performance by Claes Oldenburg at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Jim Dine
The House, 1960
Documentation of installation at Judson Gallery
Photograph by Martha Holmes
10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Allan Kaprow
Coca Cola, Shirley Cannonball?, 1960
Documentation of performance in gymnasium at Judson Gallery
10 x 8 in.
Photograph by Martha Holmes
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Untitled (Terror Valentine), 1960
Ink on cardboard
8 ½ x 11 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Ray Gun announcements for performances at Judson Gallery, 1960
Vintage photocopies of original drawings, on colored paper
Each 8 ½ x 2 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Ray Gun constructions, 1960
Documentation of installation at Judson Gallery
Photographs
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
Ray Gun money, 1960
From The Street, installation at Judson Gallery
Vintage photocopies of original drawings, on colored paper
Each 2 x 4 ½ in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University

Claes Oldenburg
The Street, 1960
Documentation of installation at Judson Gallery
Photographs by Martha Holmes
Each 10 x 8 in.
Judson Memorial Church Archive, Fales Library, New York University