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Barbara Moore on Her NYPL Avant-Garde Pop-Up

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On May 8, Barbara Moore will be conversing with Max Schumann at NYPL. Meanwhile, you can view a selection of items from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division’s Art & Architecture Collection in a vitrine in the Rose Main Reading Room, just to the right of the door of Room 300 The Art & Architecture Reading Room.

Here is a taste of what you will find there:

Ellsworth Snyder (1931-2005) was primarily a professional pianist and music scholar specializing in the work of John Cage. Expanding his interests from Cage to a wider circle, it was an easy step to Fluxus --the renegade group of Cage and Duchamp-influenced visual artists and musicians that sprang up in the early 1960s -- as well as other avant-gardists of the 1960s and ‘70s. What ties virtually everything in the Snyder Collection together is that each item -- whether actual music scores, conceptual texts, art objects intended for active handling, or announcement flyers, posters and ephemera -- alludes in some way to different aspects of performance.

On the most obvious level are actual announcements, such as the ones created by visual artists Robert Morris and Marian Zazeela for concerts by, respectively, Richard Maxfield and La Monte Young. Morris’s, when folded for mailing, becomes a direct descendent of his minimalist grey sculptures of the period. Zazeela’s gracefully curled lettering and embellishments resemble her more formal drawings.

The next step after getting an announcement is attending the performance, which typically involves having a ticket. Claes Oldenburg’s mimeographed ticket -- one of six variant double-sided designs he made for the Ray Gun Spex at the Judson Gallery and gym (in the church’s basement) in 1960 -- is here accompanied by some truly funny money from the same events.

George Brecht’s book Direction invites one to follow the pointing fingers. And indeed, pages from the unbound edition lined the stairwell leading up to the original Fluxhall at 359 Canal Street, in 1964 and for at least a decade after Fluxus had left.

Albert Fine’s Piece for Fluxorchestra, Giuseppe Chiari’s La Strada, and Mieko Shiomi’s [Events and Games] are typical examples of multi-functional Fluxus publications, initially seen as editioned art objects, then on inspection revealing brief printed text cards, whose conceptual and instructional nature offers inspiration for using them in performance.

Nye Ffarrabas’s Language Box/Box Language, Ben Vautuer’s untitled pack of cards, and the Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri, Roland Topor collaboration, Monsters Are Inoffensive, all invite one to shuffle texts or pictures to form different sentences, stories, sequences.

Jackson Mac Low’s Vocabularies are graphic scores composed of as many words as can be made using only the limited number of letters in the dedicatee’s name and each letter only for the number of times it appears in that name. For example, in this Vocabulary derived from the name Carl Fernbach-Florsheim, there are: one each of B,I,M,N,O, and S; two each of A,C,E,F,H, and L; plus three Rs.

These letters become a unique arrangement of words forming a visual, concrete-poetry influenced design that Jackson used as a graphic score for cadenced vocal recitation.

About Ray Johnson’s two artworks in this vitrine I only note, with apologies for using buzzwords, that nothing is more performative or interactive than a book.

And last but not least, on your way to a seat in the magnificent Rose or one of the other reading rooms, please add your own personal contribution to the multitude of smiles that over the years have fleetingly appeared in the library’s copy of Yoko Ono’s A Box of Smile.

About Barbara Moore

Moore is the director of the archive of her husband, the late photographer Peter Moore, which includes hundreds of thousands of images chronicling the development of Fluxus, Happenings, Judson Dance Theater, Multimedia, and Intermedia.

 

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