Allan Kaprow

Allan Kaprow (August 1927 – April 2006)

Allan Kaprow was an American painter and a forerunner in defining performance art whose work had widespread influence on Fluxus and installation art. Kaprow coined the term ‘happening’.

“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.”

– Allan Kaprow, 1966

Following his studies at Columbia University and the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, Kaprow studied composition in John Cage’s class at the New School for Social Research. Already as an undergraduate at New York University, Kaprow was heavily influenced by John Dewey’s book Art as Experience; it was at Hans Hofmann School where he started ‘action painting’ and through Cage that Kaprow increasingly focussed on the action of painting.

Kaprow’s concept of reinventions was the centre of his work:

“I say reinventions, rather than reconstructions, because the works … differ markedly from their originals. Intentionally so. As I wrote in notes to one of them, they were planned to change each time they were remade. This decision, made in the late 50s, was the polar opposite of the traditional belief that the physical art object – the painting, photo, music composition, etc. – should be fixed in a permanent form.”

– Allan Kaprow