We are very pleased to exhibit an extraordinary selection of Al Hansen's work. Geared to expose the evolution of his practice from 1962 - 1995, the exhibition concentrates on work from the 1960's but also includes an in-depth range extending to works completed just before his passing in 1995.
A seminal Happenings performer, involved with the Fluxus and Pop movements, Hansen is at once vital to the fabric of the past and of particular relevance to the present. This exhibition embodies the goal of Gallery 2 to support historical work that offers exciting parallels to current interest and reinforces a basis of historical knowledge for the audience. We consider the current excitement around performance and process based art to be fresh, but as this younger generation emerges it is interesting to understand its relationship to the movements that Hansen was of, starting as Neo-Dadaism, then morphing into Happenings, Performance Art, and Fluxus.
From the very beginning, Hansen's art, life, and community of peers were inseparably intertwined. In 1957 Hansen enrolled in John Cage's composition class at The New School. He had no prior knowledge of music, but this class became a catalyst for a community of artists performing and sharing ideas. His first exhibition was at the Ruben Gallery, New York in 1959 - a group show that included Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine and Allan Kaprow. Collaborations and solo ventures resulted in short films and performances that were improvisational in feeling but actually very formal and rehearsed. They were regularly presented at venues such as Judson Church's Hall of Issues, Pratt Institute, and later at the Third Rail Gallery of Current Art which Hansen founded in Brooklyn.
Due to the mostly ephemeral nature of their work, it can be difficult to trace the impact of many critical artists from the 1960's who were engaged in Happenings and Performance, who are historically important because of their contributions to culture and way of thinking. Whereas few of these artists were actually interested in making lasting objects, Hansen had a strong and parallel practice that was process based yet resulted in tangible objects. Hansen's body of discrete works offers a direct opportunity to experience his influence and contribution. The primary focus of the exhibition will be on the complex and appealing objects that he made. Additionally, in an effort to engage the dialogue between his performative and non-performative work we will host an evening: "Al Hansen Performance" on April 24th. This special presentation organized by Bibbe Hansen, will include videos and recreations of performances. Hansen's grandson, Channing Hansen, will be on hand to perform Elegy for Fluxus Dead.
This exhibition explores two main aspects of Hansen's work. The first is an in-depth focus of his range and use of collage. Most typically using cut or torn Hershey bar wrappers, his relationship with Neo-Dadaism and Fluxus is explored through language and preexisting materials. The earliest Hershey collages such as Yes He She, ca 1962, Holiday in Mexico, 1963, and Cool Motel, ca 1966 reference Abstract Expressionism through his method of tearing apart the wrappers. Within a few years, he began to cut the wrappers enabling him to produce the finely wrought and distinct Pop art format seen in Coco was a Little Poco Loco about Cacao and Men, 1968, whereby Hansen delicately employed a thin line from the then current Hershey wrapper to outline Coco's body. At once visual and verbal, through these changes Hansen embraced language and performance.