Artists’ books, which have testified to the complex relationship between figurative art and publishing ever since the historical avant-gardes, characterized much of the experimentation that took place in the ’60s and ’70s. In that chapter of history, they claimed the status of artworks, bringing to bear all the tools – writing, drawing, photography – capable of serving a form of expression based on conceptual thinking, elemental signs, narrative and action.
In that period, Allan Kaprow (1927–2006), taking a seemingly contradictory approach, repeatedly downgraded his books from the loftier category of art objects to that of tools aiding his main activity as a constructor of Happenings. In other words, he created a direct link between his events and books.
His “Activity Booklets”, as he termed them, were conceived as instruction manuals, instruments for understanding and experiencing the event through which the artist expressed himself.
The artist /author becomes the absolute master of his work, embodying all the different fields of expertise – content, illustration, graphics, distribution – that flow into the book. He is the sole protagonist of a “total book” in which a wide range of creative disciplines converge.
This book about Kaprow’s books, precisely because it is bibliographical, and not a work of criticism, presents the entire body of publications for the first time.