Thursday, August 13, 2009

Claes Oldenburg: "Happenings" Films at the Whitney


"Happenings" were a unique part of the American art scene in the 1960's and 70's, which isn't to say they have ever really gone away. Art documenting 60's-70's "Happenings" has largely been archived, and simply relegated to bins and filing cabinets marked quaint 60’s avant-garde, or misc. collaborators. The Oldenburg exhibit at the Whitney has takes the artist's "Happenings" off the shelf and presents them in the form of 120 minutes of looped video, digitized from beautifully restored 16mm B&W originals.

Three films in particular, Fotodeath (1961), Injun (1962), and Autobodys (1965), haven't been screened for the last forty years. Each of the seven films comprising the exhibit is a collaboration between Oldenburg, a different filmmaker, and various performers. This is seems to be the theme of the exhibit and a formal quality that allows an artist, through creating a "Happening", to evoke the chaos of modern urban life. The exhibit reminds of the power of collaboration in times of social and economic strife with the simple message: Like it or not, we're all in this together. On view until September 6 at the Whitney, as a part of the larger Claes Oldenburg exhibit.

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