Allan Kaprow has been described as an avant-garde revolutionary, a radical sociologist, a Zen(ish) monk, a progressive educator, and an anti-art theorist. But, above all, as this book reminds us, he has been an influential artist. Known for his "Happenings," Kaprow created vanguard performances in the early 1960s in which he collaged various art forms (painting, music, dance), disguised as ordinary things (newspaper, noise, body movement), into quasi-theatrical events. In the decades since, his works have remained open to the changing character of contemporary experience, always seeking the thresholds at which art and life converge. Because this art places such emphasis on direct experience, some people today think Kaprow's works were primarily transitory and immaterial. Childsplay corrects that misconception by providing a vivid description of Kaprow's Happenings and other art activities, clarifying their materiality, duration, and setting, as well as the ways in which people participated in them. Jeff Kelley brings the artist, his era, and his work to life by showing that Kaprow's artworks were physically present, socially engaged, and intellectually resonant in the moment of their enactment.
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"Childsplay is an extraordinary book. Jeff Kelley not only narrates the history of Allan Kaprow's art but also tells the story of art in the last half of the twentieth century from an entirely fresh point of view. He makes sense of performance history in the context of developments in the more traditional art media in a way that I find consistently illuminating."—Henry Sayre, author of The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde Since 1970
"Allan Kaprow's Happenings? You had to be there, goes the retort. But the next best thing, it turns out, is reading David Antin's witty first-hand accounts and Jeff Kelley's illuminating discussion of this singular form of vanguard performance art."—Christopher Knight, art critic, Los Angeles Times
"Allan Kaprow is one of those rare artists whose ideas and innovations have changed the practice and theory of art in his own lifetime. As a founding father and a leading practitioner of performance and conceptual art, he created works that have run the risk of ephemerality, leaving few traces or objects behind them. It is the achievement of Jeff Kelley's Childsplay that Kaprow's seminal works (or "play" as the title would have it) are now brought sharply and vividly back to the present. The result is not only historically and critically alive, it is nothing short of monumental."—Jerome Rothenberg, poet, professor emeritus of visual arts and literature, University of California, San Diego
"Happenings were wild, exciting, stimulating, and engaging. And best of all, the everyday person could participate. Allan Kaprow has had an enormous impact on art and performance. Now with Childsplay you will have the wonderful opportunity to revisit his work and enjoy his creativity and stunning imagination. Perhaps you will be inspired to reinvent one of Kaprow's Happenings or better yet, create one of your own."—Anna Halprin
"A Happening is an important moment in twentieth-century art. To understand a Happening you must start where Happenings began, with Allan Kaprow."—Dennis Hopper
"Childsplay is an extraordinary book. Jeff Kelley not only narrates the history of Allan Kaprow's art but also tells the story of art in the last half of the twentieth century from an entirely fresh point of view. He makes sense of performance history in the context of developments in the more traditional art media in a way that I find consistently illuminating."-Henry Sayre, author of The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde Since 1970
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