In memoriam, but no sadness

Times Staff Writer

Nam June Paik and Allan Kaprow have not been forgotten. Two Southern California institutions will celebrate the artists’ lives and legacies this week at multimedia memorial tributes.

Paik, a pioneering video and performance artist who died in January at 73, will be honored with an evening of remembrances, performances and video works at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

A multifaceted composer and artist probably best known for creating artworks from stacks of specially programmed TV sets, Paik has been feted in other memorial programs worldwide. The event at LACMA will focus on his early presence in Southern California, where he taught at CalArts’ School of Film and Video, created a video synthesizer and introduced his work to a local audience in a 1974 exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

“He was such a seminal figure for me,” said independent curator Carole Ann Klonarides, who organized the tribute. “When I saw one of his performances in 1976, it was the first time I realized that an artist could be so witty, clever and incredibly astute.” A longtime friend of the artist, Klonarides has rallied Paik experts and devotees to share their knowledge and admiration of his work.


Participants will include Mary Livingstone Beebe, director of the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, which commissioned a Paik work for its campus sculpture collection; David Ross, a veteran museum director who organized the 1974 Paik exhibition that appeared in Long Beach; and video artist Bill Viola. Kathy Rae Huffman, director of visual arts at Cornerhouse, a contemporary arts center in Manchester, England, and a former curator at the Long Beach museum, will present archival footage of Paik’s “Picturephone,” an interactive satellite performance between Los Angeles and New York.

A reception sponsored by L.A.'s Korean Cultural Center will follow the tribute.

Kaprow, the inventor of impromptu performances known as “happenings” and a longtime faculty member at UC San Diego, died in April at 79. He will be remembered in a program billed as “an afternoon of food, play, performance, words and noise” at the university’s Visual Arts Facility, from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Steve Fagin, chair of the visual arts department, said that Kaprow ranked with Andy Warhol as “one of the two most important voices on the American art scene” and that the university benefited enormously from its long association with him. Known for investing ordinary activities and playful gestures with profound meaning, Kaprow often orchestrated performances that appeared absurd but provoked discussions about what art could be and how it intersected with everyday life.

The memorial will be a two-part event, Fagin said, starting with a video of Kaprow’s work and presentations by his university colleagues in the visual arts and music departments. Among them, poet, critic and performance artist David Antin will present a “talk piece”; artist and filmmaker Eleanor Antin will read a story related to Kaprow; and violinist Janos Negyesy will perform a piece by avant-garde composer John Cage. Guest participants, including dancer-choreographer Simone Forti and artist-critic Suzanne Lacey, also will present tributes to their mentor and friend.

The second portion of the program will celebrate Kaprow’s spirit with “good cheese, good wine and a cacophony,” Fagin said. “Allan had a wonderful spirit. His legacy is such a rich generous one, the world should acknowledge it.”