Critical Mass: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia and Rutgers University 1958-1972

February 1 – June 1, 2003

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College presents the exhibition Critical Mass: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia and Rutgers University, 1958-1972, on view in Fairchild Gallery from February 1 to June 1, 2003. The exhibition is guest curated by Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks (Class of 1953), Professor Emeritus, Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University, and co-organized by Sur Rodney (Sur). A gallery reception, to celebrate the exhibition and performance of Flux-Mass, will be held on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.

Rutgers University from 1958 to 1972 was at the center of many new developments in the art world. Allan Kaprow created his first Happening there. His students, Bob Whitman and Lucas Samaras were in the vanguard of performance art and new media. Roy Lichtenstein painted his first Pop imagery while he was a faculty member. George Brecht, Bob Watts and Allan Kaprow formulated a “Project in Multiple Dimensions” challenging traditional structures of art and pedagogical methods. After the departure of Kaprow and Lichtenstein, innovations in performance, time-based art and Intermedia flourished with Robert Watts, Geoffrey Hendricks and others within the newly established graduate program. These artists-teachers strove to develop new ways of working with students in a participatory manner to create and to experience avant-garde multidisciplinary art.

Through the 60s, artists connected with Happenings and Fluxus created works on campus, and Rutgers artists in turn had a growing impact on new art in New York and abroad. In 1970, a dozen years after Kaprow’s first Happening, George Maciunas (Mr. Fluxus) created his major composition, the Flux-Mass at Rutgers’ Voorhees Chapel and Hermann Nitsch, the Viennese Actionist presented his controversial Orgies-Mysteries-Theater. All of this occurred in the midst of Rutgers political activism: a student strike, anti-war demonstrations, and the formation of the Rutgers Homophile league; and also national events: Vietnam War resistance, the civil rights movement, the Kent State massacre, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Cries to rethink attitudes about race, sex, gender, and war paralleled radical shifts in art.

The exhibition Critical Mass chronicles this period in paintings, drawings, photographs, texts, videos, performance scores, and installations by the Rutgers group associated with the innovative Fluxus movement, including Kaprow, Hendricks, Whitman, Samaras, Lichtenstein, Brecht and Watts. Rarely seen works by the extended circle of international Fluxus artists such as Al Hansen, Ray Johnson, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, Hermann Nitsch, Yoko Ono, Rafael Ortiz, and Carolee Scheemann are also on display. Presentation of Critical Mass at the Mead Art Museum is supported by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund, the David S. Mesker (Class of 1953) Fund, and the Amherst Art Series provided by a generous anonymous donor to Amherst College. After its premiere at the Mead Art Museum, the show will travel to the Mason Gross Art Galleries at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., on exhibition there from September 29 to November 5, 2003.


In addition, the Mead Art Museum will present special programs beginning with Flux-Mass, a re-enactment of the original 1970 secular performance, on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in Johnson Chapel with a reception to follow in the museum.

Meat Joy, a film of an historic performance followed by a conversation with the performance artist Carolee Schneemann and art historian Kristine Stiles occurs on Monday, Feb. 17 at 4:30 in Stirn Auditorium. RESCHEDULED DUE TO SNOW STORM: NEW DATE; APRIL 15, 2003

How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary about Ray Johnson, followed by conversation with filmmaker and photographer Andrew Moore occurs on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 4:30 in Pruyne Lecture Hall.

Films by Yoko Ono, screened on Tuesdays at 12:15 in the museum, will be discussed by art historian Midori Yoshimoto on Thursday, Apr. 3 at 4:30 in the Teaching Gallery.

Guest curator and Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks will offer a gallery talk on Friday, May 30 at 4:30 in Fairchild Gallery followed by a reception. The related events are co-sponsored by the Fine Arts Department, the Theater and Dance Department, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department.

Also in conjunction with the "Critical Mass" exhibition at the Mead Art Museum, the Frost Library presents FluxusFluxusFluxus, an exhibition drawn from its extensive collection of Fluxus material. Curated by Daria D’Arienzo, Head of the Archives and Special Collections, and Michael Kasper, Reference Librarian, this exhibition will be on view both on the First Floor and on Level A of Frost Library throughout the semester. Hours inside the Archives: 9 a.m. to Noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

"Critical Mass" also has a presence in the lobby of Kirby Theater with the Gray Ladies, three puppets designed by Peter Schumann, Director of the Bread and Puppet Theater, Glover, Vermont. Fabricated in 1966-1967, the puppets were used in performances staged by Bread and Puppet during the Vietnam War, including the Gray Lady Cantata. This was performed in 1967, during “The Week of Angry Acts Against the War in Vietnam,” by The Judson Chamber Ensemble, the Judson Choir, a hundred “gray” ladies, and five tympany players. These puppets are on loan from the Bread and Puppet Museum, Glover, Vermont.

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