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The Box Gallery presents Henry Flynt: Thinky Art & Fantasy

  |   Exhibition

On View Through: January 13th, 2018

Henry Flynt – Thinky Art & Fantasy
1987 – 2017

Curated by Kye Potter

We are excited to announce Thinky Art & Fantasy: 1987 – 2017, a survey of works by avant-garde artist, musician and philosopher Henry Flynt. This exhibition – the largest selection of Flynt’s works ever assembled in the United States – includes sculpture, paintings, and installations spanning a prolific thirty-year period. Flynt will be mounting his large scale, immersive installation, Logically Impossible Space, first realized at the 1990 Venice Biennale.

Henry Flynt (b. 1940, Greensboro, NC) had a major intellectual influence on the post-Cage New York avant-garde in the early 1960s. His ideas are foundational to a multidisciplinary, radical rethinking of what could make up an art practice. “Concept Art,” his prescient essay from 1961, signaled a new form:

“Concept Art” is first of all an art of which the material is “concepts”, as the material of for ex. music is sound. Since “concepts” are closely bound up with language, concept art is a kind of art of which the material is language.

Flynt completed five works that satisfy Concept Art’s stringent conditions in 1961. After early 1962, he more or less stopped making Concept Art (until 1987). And by early 1963 he had destroyed most of his body of work. He felt this act was the way to bring on the death of art, to be replaced by what Flynt called “Veramusement” (later re-termed “Brend”). In his 1963 lecture “From Culture to Veramusement” Flynt railed against “the suffering caused by Serious-Culture snobbery, by its attempts to force individuals in line with things supposed to have objective validity, but actually representing only alien subjective tastes sanctioned by tradition.” Instead Flynt called for activities that are an individual’s “just-likings,” done without any consciousness of authorship, without any outside social or financial demand, free of competition, and therefore considered not art but Veramusement once completed.

Flynt was also a major influence on Fluxus, most evident in the first (1963) and second (1965) Fluxus manifestos, where Flynt’s previously published ideas are enumerated anew, and in his friendship with George Maciunas who admired Flynt’s unique tone and direct expression. Despite these affinities and his inclusion in Fluxus exhibitions, performances, and publications, Flynt has always maintained his independence from this group.

Flynt began composing music at Harvard in 1959. One of his early compositions is a piano piece performed with fists and forearms. Surely a piece made by many children before him, but in a classical context it brought a radical sensibility: bad notes, no score, jazz influenced improvisation. This piece was performed as part of a program, Music and Poetry of Henry Flynt at Yoko Ono’s loft in 1961 and included visionaries Simone Forti and Walter De Maria as performers of Flynt’s compositions. During this time, and previous to La Monte Young’s ground-breaking work with the Theatre of Eternal Music, Flynt and Young worked through ideas together, playing duets that incorporated Flynt’s shrill violin soloing and Young’s repetitive patterns on piano. One of Young’s seminal pieces is titled in dedication to Flynt, “Arabic Numeral (Any Integer) to H.F.” (1960). He even sat in for John Cale for four shows in 1966 with the Velvet Underground. Despite these auspicious beginnings, and his many musical projects now available (15 full-length releases in the last 16 years), Flynt’s music was largely unheard until 2001. Since then he has become well known for his unique synthesis of Indian classical music and the music of the American South, which he calls his Avant-Garde Hillbilly Music. Flynt will be performing his electric violin masterpiece “You Are My Everlovin’” (1981) at the exhibition opening. This will be his first performance on the west coast.

Flynt has written and lectured on a diverse range of topics: mathematics, personhood, psychedelics, positive creep theory, revolutionary politics, dignity, and acognitive culture, to name a few. The ambitious (and unprecedented) scope of Flynt’s project is clear in the title he chose for a 1975 book of his collected writings: Blueprint for a Higher Civilization. There’s no hyperbole there.

It might be asked: Why an art show for an anti-art activist, someone calling for the destruction of culture? Flynt, who was a student of the Hindustani vocalist, Pandit Pran Nath, would be well aware that the Destroyer is also the Creator.

Kye Potter, LA ’17

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