08. Daniel Kopel Reviews “Allan Kaprow Yard”

The jumble of tires at Hauser & Wirth is “not your mother’s gallery exhibition,” but it very well may have been. The “environment” was installed here in 1961, in the courtyard of what was then the Martha Jackson Gallery. Forty-eight years later, Yard has never felt as fresh as it does in William Pope.L’s iteration (“Yard [To Harrow]”) of this pioneering work.

You are welcome and even encouraged to scale the mountain of tires and to rearrange them to your liking. To simply stand back is to miss the point entirely. It is a refreshing and empowering departure from the off-putting please-don’t-touch preciousness of galleries that has doubtless alienated and dissuaded younger audiences. On a recently released recorded lecture entitled “How To Make A Happening” (Primary Information), Kaprow advises to “steer clear of art” and later adds: “It’s best when it’s artless, for better or for worse.” It is precisely this “artlessness” which lets you relish this experiential work, unencumbered by pretentiousness or good form.

Pope.L’s mostly ambient intervention — the lights flicker now and again and a soundscape fades in and out — is negligible, and this should come as a relief. It would be wrong to tamper foundationally with what is already an endlessly layered and potent work. The simplicity of the premise — tires in a room — has enormous implications, however. Thrown into sharp relief is the relationship between the viewer and the artwork, and that of the viewer with fellow co-habitants in the space. Requiring no additional resources, the same material means suffice to critique how arbitrarily value is attached to art and how our attitude toward the object is consequently modified in direct relation to that number. In so doing, Yard encourages us to do away with restraint and appropriate art conduct.

Upstairs is documentation of Yard’s various incarnations. In keeping with the show’s approachable style, photocopies are stapled to the wall unassumingly. A cursory glance at the history of the life of the piece should reassure the viewer that though the specific conditions of each remounting have doubtlessly enriched the work by testing it, the version that can be experienced downstairs feels somehow privileged, despite the fact that Kaprow — having passed away in 2006 — had no hand in the current remounting as he did in the others. In a sort of posthumous homecoming, Yard revisits an old haunt; its place of origin, if only through October 31st.

The installation at Hauser & Wirth on 32 East 69th Street is one of three revisions of Yard curated by Helen Molesworth. Also on view is Yard (Junkyard) by Josiah McElheny at the Queens Museum of Art, and Yard (Sign) by Sharon Hayes at the New York Marble Cemetery, both running through October 4th.

32 East 69th Street
September 23 – October 31