Jim Dine | Happenings

In 1956, as he appraised the legacy of Jackson Pollock, Allan Kaprow imagined a new artform which contemplated sight, sounds, movement, people, odours, all kinds of materials and objects. When this new art materialised, through him and a group of young artists, Kaprow identified it with the term happening. A few years later, in 1964, Michael Kirby published his volume Happenings, in which he consecrated the leading exponents of this artistic experience: Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman.

Happenings first broke onto the scene in New York, from late in 1959 and into the following year, in a fairly circumscribed area which extended from Fourth Avenue to Washington Square, mainly in the gallery of a young Anita Rubin – the Reuben Gallery – and at the Judson Gallery, which had opened in the basement of the Judson Memorial Church.

For the exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, we retraced the entire history of Jim Dine’s happenings, which began and ended in 1960 with a total of five works: The Smiling Workman, conceived together with the environment The House at the Judson Gallery; the performance which accompanied Dine’s solo show at the Rueben Gallery, which was the venue also for the following Vaudeville Collage, Car Crash, A Shining Bed. With the exception of his contribution to the “First Theater Rally” in 1965 – The Natural History (The Dreams) – at the invitation of his friend Alan Solomon, after 1960 Dine abruptly ended his involvement with happenings in order to, as he has repeated on a number of occasions over the years, devote himself entirely to painting.

For the reconstruction of his happenings, we gathered together all the available images by those photographers who were the first to document this new artform: Robert R. McElroy most of all, Fred W. McDarrah, Martha Holmes and Peter Moore. Jim Dine, to whom we remain profoundly grateful, added depth to our research with the gift of his recorded memoirs as he observed the photographic material in the summer of 2019.  Thanks to the editing by Monkeys VideoLab, these images and the live recording of Jim Dine’s account have been worked into six videos.