Feb 10: Happenings

A new exhibition remembers New York's Happenings of the late 50's and early 60's.


The in-house photographer for the famous Happenings of the late fifties and early sixties, Robert McElroy “was somehow always just around us,” recalls artist Jim Dine—whether he was snapping Dine playing a sad clown in 1960’s “The Big Laugh,” Claes Oldenburg cavorting as a vegetable, or Lucas Samaras peeping in on the leafy set of Allan Kaprow’s seminal “Apple Shrine” (1960.) A college friend of Dine’s in Ohio, McElroy followed his buddy to pre-pop New York and was there when he jumped on the wild Happenings bandwagon. Though seemingly impromptu events—put on by young painters, sculptors, and others who would after emerge as some of the biggest names in American art—the Happenings were actually carefully scripted theatrical performances. As Happenings: New York, 1958–1963, a new show opening February 10 at the Pace Gallery attests, McElroy didn’t miss a beat when it came to documenting this new, if short-lived, genre. His cache of largely forgotten work now supplements Pace’s show, curated by Mildred Glimcher, which, as Dine notes, “takes a moment in American history when something was being invented.”