Allan Kaprow

For the first week of Art 110, and the first Artist of the week, I get the pleasure of discussing Allan Kaprow. Allan Kaprow’s art represents an idea that is relatable to me, which is that art is simple in concept, but difficult in performance. I recall the first time I attempted painting with my wife, Justine. She, an experienced painted put together a good looking piece within 2 hours, while I struggled with the basics, color blending, hard lines, and lack of depth and dimension. I kept on thinking that I could visualize what I needed to do in my head in great detail, but when it came to applying my motor skills to produce a work of art, I was like a Neanderthal chipping away at stone, producing a crude impression of what I was trying to do.

To illustrate this I am going to examine a piece known as Fluids, by Kaprow. Fluids is a simple concept, you build a rectangular wall out of ice. How hard can that be? Much more difficult that you could imagine without examining the process of performing this art.

Fluids – Allan Kaprow 1967

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Before I discuss the building process from a technical standpoint, let me draw attention to the fact that producing this piece of Art requires a lot of preparation. You not only need an excessive amount of ice, but a place to keep the ice cooled while you produce the piece.

Building the base of the structure is the most straight forward part. The ice lies in the dirt and can be leveled appropriately to ensure a uniform starting height. When you add more blocks, however, the process becomes difficult quickly. You cannot simple stack ice blocks one on top of another, but rather have to create a brick pattern as seen in the picture above.This requires an alternating pattern of while side has the extra ice block to produce a semi-lattice structure. That pattern is then continued tier after tier.

Moving past the structure dynamic is the obvious problem, ice has a poor friction coefficient which causes the ice blocks to slip if they are not assembled properly. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that as the work of art becomes more complete, it becomes more incomplete due to the bottom layers melting. This piece has an innate time limit to complete.

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The last bit about this piece that I wish to discuss is the need for participation to complete. It is unfeasible for a single person to put this work of art together by themselves. This leads to a teamwork and comradery that is common throughout Kaprow’s work. I think Kaprow embraces the idea that art isn’t just for a few people, but rather that art is for everyone. These happening that Kaprow put together show this dynamic beautifully, and drive home the message of community in art.

To me Kaprow’s art is less about ego, and more about experience. He wants people to look past the surface, and experience art in the detail that artists have to go into to produce beautiful works of art.

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