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INVENTORY OF THE ALLAN KAPROW PAPERS, 1940-1997
980063  
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Allan Kaprow papers
    Date (inclusive): 1940-1997
    Number: 980063
    Creator/Collector: Kaprow, Allan
    Physical Description: 63.5 linear feet (119 boxes, 16 flat file folders, 2 rolls)
    Repository:
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The Allan Kaprow Papers offer comprehensive documentation of an artistic career that spanned the latter half of the 20th century and continues into the 21st. Arranged chronologically so as to demonstrate the artist's passage from student of art and art history to practicing artist, art theorist and art educator, the collection contains drawings, term papers and notebooks from Kaprow's student days, followed by ca. 250 Project Files, comprising the complete extant documentation of Kaprow's Environments, Happenings, and Activities.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical / Historical Note

    Allan Kaprow was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on August 23, 1927, and spent his childhood in Tuscon, Arizona. His family then moved to New York, where Kaprow attended the High School of Music and Art, graduating in 1945. He received his B.A. degree from New York University, where he majored in philosophy and art history and was a principle cartoonist for the college magazine. He then earned a Master's Degree in art history at Columbia University where he studied with Meyer Schapiro, to whom he dedicated his Thesis on Piet Mondrian in 1951. He also studied painting with Hans Hofmann (1947-1948) at Hofmann's school, and musical composition with John Cage at the New School for Social Research (1957-1958).
    In the mid-1950s Kaprow began exhibiting his work, expressionist or fauvist-style paintings, at the Hansa Gallery, an East Village cooperative that he co-founded with a group of other young artists including Jan Müller, Felix Pasilis, and Jean Follett. By 1958, Kaprow's paintings had evolved into the interactive installations that he called Environments, at that time a novel concept in the American art scene. From this Kaprow moved to the notion of creating an event determined, like Cage's music, by a score that allowed for chance developments. The elements of these event pieces were always to be everyday objects (tires, cheap mirrors, aluminum foil, plastic strips), people (participants), and often sound (bits of household or workworld dialogue, breathing, industrial noise). He also generally dispensed with the gallery space and utilized urban spaces or sites in nature.
    Kaprow had a long career as a professor of art and art history. He taught at Rutgers University (1953-1961), SUNY Stony Brook (1961-1968), California Institute of the Arts (1969-1974) and UC San Diego (1974-1993), and has been a visiting lecturer at numerous museums and universities. He also co-directed an educational program for the Berkeley public schools in 1969, Project Other Ways, and has authored several proposals regarding art education reform in the United States.
    Beginning with his prescient article "The Legacy of Jackson Pollock," published in Art News in 1958, Kaprow has consistently produced critical and theoretical pieces that explain his kind of art as the most adequate aesthetic response to contemporary life. Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings (1966) presented the work of like-minded artists through both photographs and critical essays, and is a standard text in the field of performance art. Kaprow's Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (1993), a collection of pieces written over four decades, has made his theories about the practice of art in the present day available to a new generation of artists and critics. In addition, major catalogs of Kaprow's work have been published in connection with retrospectives in the U.S. and Europe, most notably 7 Environments (1992).
    The critical and public acceptance of Kaprow's work may be attributed as much to the polemics of Kaprow's writings and lectures as to his anticipation that American art would move away from the hermetic aesthetic of Abstract Expressionism and return, in certain respects, to the anti-subjective populism of Futurism, Constructivism and Dada. For four decades Kaprow has continued to work within the form of the Environment, Happening, or Activity, and has reinvented certain early works several times, making a total of nearly 250 pieces. His influence on other artists, especially the performance and installation artists of the 1970s and 1980s, has been significant. More than forty years after the first Happening, his work is the subject of continual critical discussion. While the form Kaprow largely invented has lost its shock-value, the quality of his ephemeral pieces continues to resonate through their scores and other surviving documentation.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers, except un-reformatted audiotapes, videotapes and films.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Allan Kaprow Papers, 1940-1997, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 980063.

    Acquisition Information

    Collection acquired from Allan Kaprow in 1998.

    Processing History

    435 monographs and serials were transferred to the library 1999 Apr 20.
    Peter Kirby reformatted audio cassettes, Super 8 films, video tapes and 1/4 inch audio tapes in 2003. The remainder of audio visual materials were reformatted between 2004 and 2008 by the Getty Research Library.

    Alternate Form Available

    Includes reformatted audio visual materials.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Allan Kaprow Papers offer comprehensive documentation of an artistic career that spanned the latter half of the 20th century and continues into the 21st. Arranged chronologically so as to demonstrate the artist's passage from student of art and art history to practicing artist, art theorist and art educator, the collection contains drawings, term papers and notebooks from Kaprow's student days, followed by ca. 250 Project Files, comprising the complete extant documentation of Kaprow's Environments, Happenings, and Activities. These files form the core of the collection and demonstrate the evolution of Kaprow's Happening from a relatively scripted, grand, social event (Chicken; Household) to an austere, inter-subjective experience (Time Pieces; Rates of Exchange). They contain the artist's notes and drafts of the casually poetic scores, along with correspondence and photo-documentation by Peter Moore, Robert McElroy, and Julian Wasser, among other photographers. A variety of Printed Matter, including Scrapbooks, Clippings and Posters, document the work's presentation and reception in the art world. There are also Film, Video and Audio recordings of many Happenings and Activities. Kaprow's writings, arranged chronologically by year, represent the artist's consistent production of articles, essays, books, and lectures about the practice of contemporary art and issues in art education. Teaching files contain correspondence with university officials and colleagues; together with Professional Correspondence they portray the financial difficulties attendant on an unconventional art career that has taken place outside the usual venues and generated few objects that could be sold for profit. Artists' Files comprise texts, objects or photographs sent to Kaprow, and evoke the international community of avant-garde artists to which Kaprow belongs.

    Arrangement note

    The papers are organized in 10 series: Series I. Education, 1940-1996 Series II. Hansa Gallery, 1953-1958 Series III. Project Files, 1946-1999 Series IV. Printed Matter, 1952-1997 Series V. Writings, 1953-1997 Series VI. Teaching Files, 1952-1993 Series VII. Professional Correspondence, 1946-1998 Series VIII. Artists' Files, 1955-1996 Series IX. Personal, 1946-1996 Series X. Films and Video and Audio Tapes, 1957-1995 Oversize from Series I-X, 1949-1970

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Art--Study and teaching
    Arts, Modern-20th century
    Conceptual Art
    Happening (Art)
    Performance art
    Theater

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Audiotapes
    Motion pictures (visual works)
    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original
    Posters
    Scores
    Scrapbooks
    Videotapes

    Contributors

    Baecker, Inge
    Conz, Francesco, 1935
    Donguy, Jacques
    Fluxus (Group of Artists)
    Hansa Gallery (New York, N.Y.).
    Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998
    Hofmann, Hans, 1880-1966
    Kantor, Tadeusz, 1915-1990
    Knízák, Milan
    McElroy, Robert R.
    Mondrian, Piet, 1872-1944
    Moore, Peter, 1932-1993
    Oldenburg, Claes, 1929-
    Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956
    Samaras, , Lucas, 1936-
    Schapiro, Meyer, 1904-
    Schimmel, Paul
    Vostell, Wolf, 1932-1998