Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers Celebrates the Origins of Fluxus

August 4, 2011

New Brunswick, NJ – Fluxus, the playful, radical, and boundary-exploding art movement led by George Maciunas and made widely known by Yoko Ono, returns to its starting place on the campus of Rutgers University from Saturday, September 24, 2011 to Sunday, April 1, 2012.

The occasion is at/around/beyond: Fluxus at Rutgers, an exhibition at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers timed to Fluxus 50th-anniversary celebrations. “It was at Rutgers that the seeds of Fluxus art were planted in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.  It was in New Brunswick where Allan Kaprow’s first Happening was staged in 1958, George Brecht and Robert Watts organized a series of Yam Events, which preceded the first official Fluxus festival organized by Maciunas in Germany in 1962,” notes Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli. “Few at the time would have guessed that this group of provocateurs would become a primary inspiration for entire generations of artists to follow.”

From sculptural objects, assemblages, prints, multiples, ephemera and books to films, sound works, photographs, and performance documentation, more than 60 works will be assembled at the Zimmerli from the museum’s permanent holdings and private collections.  “We are particularly thrilled to present a number of interactive Fluxus works and a Fluxus concert,” notes Donna Gustafson, the Andrew W. Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator at the Zimmerli.  “Performance was so integral to Fluxus attitudes towards life and art that the display of objects alone can’t completely convey the spirit of the movement.”

Visitors to at/around/beyond will be able to play chess with, say, fresh lemons as pawns on Larry Miller’s oversize Fruit and Vegetable Chess board or with identical wooden pieces on Takako Saito’s Sound Chess.  For Saito’s game, players will shake the chess pieces to distinguish the pieces by their rattles.  Also on view will be Chieko Shiomi’s Fluxus Balance, where visitors can weigh words and ideas by placing them on a tiny scale and a late version of Ay-O’s Finger Box Kit, where users may insert their fingers into the mysterious holes of 15 small wooden boxes. 

One section of at/around/beyond brings together works by the most influential of the Fluxus artists at Rutgers, including Robert Watts, Geoffrey Hendricks, and Al Hansen, who were teachers; Larry Miller, MFA graduate 1970; and George Brecht and Philip Corner, who were each an important presence on the campus. Watts, who taught at Rutgers for 35 years, is represented by a number of seldom-seen objects on loan from his estate, including a chrome pencil, a pair of Fluxus underwear, and a stamp machine loaded with his own stamps.  Other notable objects by the Rutgers artists include Brecht’s Water Yam (1963), a box of Brecht’s printed instructions known as event-scores, or fluxscores, which could either be performed in public or left to the imagination, and Geoffrey Hendricks’s Flux Divorce Box, a wooden box inside which is Hendricks’s own wedding album, sliced in half.

“Fluxus has been described as an attitude, a way of experiencing the world, and as a laboratory of ideas,” notes Donna Gustafson, Zimmerli curator. “While this exhibition can’t include all aspects of Fluxus production and ideas, we hope that it begins to suggest a worldview that embraces chance, the seemingly insignificant moment, and the importance of play in both life and art.”

The Zimmerli will also present a number of Fluxus films, including 89 Movies by Robert Watts, and the Fluxfilm Anthology, compiled by Maciunas.  In the reading room, visitors will be able to peruse Fluxus books like Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit and editions from the Great Bear pamphlet series published by Dick Higgins’s Something Else Press.

Documentary photographs will convey something of the foment in New Jersey in the 1960s. There are black-and-white prints capturing Yam Festival events such as Kaprow’s Tree Happening at George Segal’s Farm in North Brunswick, New Jersey, the legendary Flux-mass at Rutgers in 1970, and Philip Corner’s performance of Dick Higgins’ One Thousand Symphonies (1968), a musical score created with the help of the New Jersey police who fired a machine gun into sheets of music paper—the holes they made marked notes of music.

at/around/beyond will also feature works by other Fluxus artists including Robert Filliou, Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Ben Vautier,  Emmett Williams, and Christian Xatrec.  

This exhibition is also the focal point of an undergraduate seminar at the university taught by Gustafson and Gerry Beegan, who teaches design at Mason Gross School of the Arts.  A highlight of the exhibition is the presentation of a Fluxus concert led by Fluxus artist Larry Miller and performed by a contingent of Rutgers students from the seminar at the Zimmerli on Wednesday, November 2, at 6:30 pm, as part of the museum’s Art After Hours program.  After the concert, visitors will be invited to participate in games of Sound Chess, Fruit and Vegetable Chess, or to play Shiomi’s Fluxus Balance game in the galleries.  The Flux Concert and the events at Art After Hours are free to Rutgers faculty, students, and staff and free with museum admission.

The exhibition has been organized by Donna Gustafson, Andrew W. Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator and Eveline Baseggio Omiccioli, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History and Graduate Assistant, Zimmerli Art Museum with the assistance of Heather Cammarata-Seale, MA Candidate in Art History and Museum Intern. 

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, founded in 1966, is one of the largest university art museums in United States. The Zimmerli’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the 19th century, Russian and Soviet nonconformist Art, and American and European works on paper, including prints, rare books, drawings, photographs, and original illustrations for children’s books. The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick.

Location and Hours

The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street, at the corner of George Street, on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month September through July, 10 am to 9 pm. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65, and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610, or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu

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