Pace Galleries

The New York Times Highlights "Happenings: New York, 1958-1963" in Week Ahead

In the past few years commercial galleries have been doing some of the historical heavy lifting we usually associate with museums. “HAPPENINGS: NEW YORK, 1958-1963” at the Pace Gallery is a sterling example. The show, which comes with a luxurious catalog, documents the brief half-decade when art in New York was in exhilarating free fall. Abstract Expressionism had had its day; Pop and Minimalism were just kicking in; Conceptualism was on the horizon. In downtown Manhattan painting, sculpture, dance, performance and film, not to mention tons of street trash, crashed together in art events that changed art for good. Part of the beauty of Happenings was that they existed entirely in the present tense: they were unpreservable and not re-creatable. The Pace exhibition presents them mostly through photographs, in which now-legendary artists — like Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann and Simone Forti — cavort, emote and act out within fantastic assemblage environments. A few scraps of those settings are in the show, as are original scripts and sketches, though they don’t pretend to be anything more than relics, a secondhand experience of art. With Happenings, you just had to be there, and the Pace show is as close as most of us will get. Through March 17, 534 West 25th Street, Chelsea; (212) 929-7000, thepacegallery.com.
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