Tennessee Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

Nashville, TN



Beck and Al Hansen: Playing With Matches


This ground-breaking exhibition pairs 1960s visual artist Al Hansen's collages, videos and performances with the music videos, poetry and collages of his Grammy award-winning grandson Beck. Over 130 works of art will be included in the exhibition, which will run from October 27, 2000 through January 7, 2001. Nashville offers the only southeastern venue for this internationally acclaimed show, which has already toured in Tokyo and New York. According to museum director Dr. John Wetenhall, "Its showing at Cheekwood is a coup for the museum and extension of Cheekwood's continued commitment to world-class contemporary art. Playing With Matches, a vibrant, complex show of multiple imagery, wonderfully complements the contemporary art on the sculpture trail, regional art exhibitions, and the cutting-edge New York videos now on display at Cheekwood. (Beck Hansen, Special Police, 1998, mixed media, Collection of the artist)

Assistant Curator Terri Smith states, "Playing with Matches gives viewers an opportunity to explore how ideas cross-pollinate between two artists from two generations. This show also addresses how a philosophy that values spontaneity and the use of discarded materials can be a catalyst for art in a variety of media, including poetry, video, sculpture and music. Playing with Matches demonstrates artistic influence in the relationship between singer/songwriter Beck and his grandfather, visual artist Al Hansen. Since the art in this exhibition includes works from the 1960s through the 1990s, it will foster cross-pollination of ideas between viewers of different generations and with different interests.

The exhibition primarily focuses on the late Al Hansen's contributions to the art world, including his participation in the Fluxus movement and his 1960s "Happening" performances. Martha Wilson, Founding Director of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., a New York performance and installation museum, says, "Fluxus...holds that change is the only constant. This movement contributed the term 'intermedia,' and popularized time-based performance, video, film, and installation (art)...." Hansen's association with avant - garde composer John Cage, with whom he studied at the New School in New York in 1957, led to his pioneering work with messy, chaotic, "crazy theatre" performances called "Happenings." Hansen differed from other Happening-makers in that his performances were largely unplanned, often giving participants various kinds of materials and hardly any directions. Al Hansen did not merely create art, but made life decisions based on his artistic beliefs, which included the conviction that an artist's lifestyle should be reflected in the finished product. Playing With Matches is an opportunity to see what Al Hansen contributed to this movement and to learn more about his perspective, often inspired by the Zen belief wabi-sabi. Hansen defined wabi-sabi as "...the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent or incomplete." Hansen's philosophy is summed up in the following conversation: (left: Al Hansen, I Haven't Forgotton, 1967, Collection of Jasper Johns)

"Q: Why don't you do beautiful art?
A: What I do is beautiful.
Q: How can junk be beautiful?
A: It comes from an ancient idea that God is in all things."
-- Al Hansen, Questions and Answers: Al Hansen Archive Text

Beck, who is critically acclaimed in the music industry, has achieved pop superstardom over the past several years, winning over 30 awards (including three Grammy Awards) and selling millions of albums. The process Beck uses to create music is influenced by his grandfather's art and includes improvised recording sessions in which songs are created on the spot. Beck's use of sampled sounds from existing sources to create music that is. essentially, an audio collage is also very similar to his grandfather's use of refuse and sound in his visual and performance art. Beck openly credits Al with his approach to art and sound. "For Beck." writes World Art reporter, Barney Hoskyns, "Playing with Matches offered the opportunity to pay a debt to a formative artistic influence -- to use his pop renown to bring Al Hansen's work from out of the shadows of avant - garde history.

An opening reception at 6:00 pm on Friday, October 27 will kick off a series of special events and programs created for this exhibition. Beck's mother and Al Hansen's archivist, Bibbe Hansen; Channing Hansen, Beck's brother and a performance artist; and the show's curator, Wayne Baerwaldt, will attend the opening and lead a panel discussion the next day. Channing Hansen will perform a Happening, Elegy to the Fluxus Dead, at the opening, and Bibbe Hansen will orchestrate a Happening on October 28 following the panel discussion. The opening reception will be free; a nominal admission fee will be charged for the other events. On December 8, Cheekwood will host a poetry reading featuring internationally renowned poets Robert Creeley, Anselm Hello, Jackson Mac Low and Alison Knowles. Robert Creeley, who is the most published with 80 books of poetry to his name, currently teaches at SUNY Buffalo, New York. Anselm Hello, author of over 35 poetry books, is an Associate Professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Mac Low is the author of approximately 30 poetry books and a former professor at New York University and Brown University, and Alison Knowles is a New York poet, artist and performer who engaged in events with Fluxus groups in the sixties. Both Mac Low and Knowles were contemporaries of Al Hansen.


Read more about Cheekwood Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/23/11

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