Fluxus at the GRI
|Robert Watts, Favorite Baseball Team, about 1968-1980
"Everything changes but the avant-garde," said Paul Valéry. Fluxus was part of the Boomer generation's avant-garde, yet it seems ever-contemporary: a global, ephemeral, righteous, twee—and resolutely anti-market—art of paradox.
In 1985 the Getty Research Institute acquired Jean Brown's Fluxus archive of about 6000 objects. Prior to that, the GRI's collections skewed towards older European rare books and documents, more-or-less congruent to the outlines of the Getty Museum's holdings. The Brown collection pulled the GRI into the 20th century and added art to archive. Fluxus is open-mike conceptualism, where the goal is be cosmic and funny with stuff from the 99 cents store. The Brown trove preserves many of the signature pieces of the Fluxus movement, but they defy conventional museum displays and values. Fluxus objects are typically small, unprecious, ready-made multiples with a twist of dad(a) humor.
Brown's collection has been a staple of GRI exhibitions and loans ever since, but never so much in one place as in the institute's first post-lockdown show, "Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown's Avant-Garde."
|George Maciunas, Your Name Spelled with Objects, for Jeanette Brown, 1972. © 2021 Estate of George Maciunas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
|George Maciunas, U.S.A. Surpasses All the Genocide Records, about 1966
As art history's class clown, Fluxus is not normally parsed in social justice terms. But Maciunas made a political point about as well as it can be made, c. 1966.
Brown lived in a Massachusetts Shaker house once used for printing seed envelopes. The Brown collection has itself been the seed of a much larger Fluxus holding at the Getty. Since 1985 the GRI has acquired the personal archives of Fluxus artists and fellow travelers Simone Forti, Allan Kaprow, Yvonne Ranier, David Tudor, Robert Watts, and Emmett Williams.
|Larry Miller and George Maciunas, Very Slow Fan; Robert Watts, Flux Light Kit; George Maciunas, Light Bulbs