Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998

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American artist, poet, writer, publisher, composer, and educator.

From the description of Dick Higgins papers, ca. 1960-1994 (bulk 1972-1993). (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 146003268

Artist, poet, publisher, and composer; New York and Barrytown, NY. Member of the artists' group, Fluxus. Died Oct. 25, 1998.

From the description of Dick Higgins papers, 1958-1997. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79005545

D. October 25, 1998.

From the description of Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. (Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). WorldCat record id: 84995584

Dick Higgins (1938-1998) is best known as a co-founding member of the Fluxus art movement in the 1960s. Embracing the fluidity and boundary-crossing nature of art, Higgins introduced the concept of "intermedia" in 1965 and spent the next 30 years creating artwork in the areas of performance art (Happenings), musical composition, concrete and pattern poetry, painting, and theoretical writings in scholarly and personal publications. He operated three successful specialized publishing companies: Something Else Press (1964-1974), Unpublished Editions (1972-1978), which was later renamed Printed Editions (1978-1985). Higgins was a student of John Cage and a contemporary of George Maciunas, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Ray Johnson, LaMonte Young, and Alison Knowles, whom he married.

From the description of Dick Higgins Collection, 1958-2002 (UMBC). WorldCat record id: 263024935

Biographical/Historical Note

Dick Higgins is known for his extensive literary, artistic and theoretical activities. Along with his writings in poetry, theory and scholarship, Higgins published the well-known Something Else Press and was a cooperative member of Unpublished/Printed Editions; co-founded Fluxus and Happenings; wrote performance and graphic notations for theatre, music, and non-plays; and produced and created paintings, sculpture, films and the large graphics series 7.7.73. Higgins received numerous grants and prizes in support of his many endeavors.

Born Richard Carter Higgins in Cambridge, England, March 15, 1938, Higgins studied at Columbia University, New York (where he received a bachelors degree in English, 1960), the Manhattan School of Printing, New York, and the New School of Social Research, 1958-59, with John Cage and Henry Cowell. He attended Cage's composition class, where he met George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen and other future Fluxus artists. In 1958 Hansen and Higgins formed the New York Audio Visual Group, which was one of the groups to develop the concept of Happenings. The following year Higgins in association with Richard Maxfield, another of Cage's students, presented Stacked Deck, one of the earliest multi-media performances. Higgins also helped Kaprow put together his first New York happening 18 Happenings in 6 Parts that same year. Moreover, he also participated in the series of performances at George Maciunas' AG Gallery in 1961.

Higgins married artist Alison Knowles in 1960. They traveled extensively in Europe from 1962-63 to establish contacts and soak up the artistic atmosphere. They occasionally collaborated on Fluxus performances, but mostly kept their art separate, consulting and advising each other when necessary. Their twin daughters Hannah and Jessica were born in 1964. After their 1970 divorce, Higgins and Knowles maintained friendly relations and shared residences. They later remarried in 1984, mostly for financial reasons and convenience.

In 1961 Higgins co-founded Fluxus with Maciunas and others when that same year Maciunas began his Fluxus press. Maciunas wanted to publish a series of anthologies of very new and avant-garde art based on La Monte Young's An Anthology, which Maciunas had designed and produced. He proposed publishing an anthology of Higgins entire life's work. However, Higgins thought the publication would be too large for commercial publication. They agreed instead to include everything Higgins wrote, composed or invented between April 13, 1962 and April 13, 1963 (Thomas Jefferson's birthday). Since Maciunas was taking too long, Higgins decided to publish the work himself. Thus, Higgins founded Something Else Press in 1964. Its first publication was his Jefferson's Birthday/Postface, two books bound back to back.

A Fluxus work by definition must be cheap and mass-producible. However, Higgins' press published experimental literature in high-quality trade formats with remarkable design features intended for commercial mainstream publication. It was the first publishing house in the United States to devote itself to "artists books." Higgins also published the Something Else Newsletter, 1966-1973 and operated the Something Else Gallery, 1966-69, which in 1966 showed the first exhibit of concrete poetry in the United States.

John Cage's philosophy of integrating art and life influenced Higgins' own artistic and theoretical ideas. Higgins' important concept of "intermedia," stated in 1965, is a direct outgrowth of Cage's ideas. Higgins identified Happenings and contemporary experiments in theatre and the visual arts as arts that "fall between media."

Higgins hired Barbara Moore and Emmett Williams as editors for Something Else Press. Williams replaced Moore when she went on maternity leave in 1966, and remained there until both he and Higgins moved to California in 1970, Higgins to teach at California Institute of the Arts. Williams' subsequent involvement with the press would be based more on their personal relationship. But, their friendship grew increasingly strained until they broke off relations entirely in 1975, over a property dispute. They reconciled a few years later. Jan Herman took over as director of Something Else Press in 1973, when Higgins left to tend to personal and financial problems. The press went bankrupt the following year.

In 1971, Higgins settled in West Glover, Vermont, near Stinehour Press which has been called "the finest letterpress book printer in North America." The presence of Stinehour influenced what and how Higgins published. Higgins founded Unpublished Editions in 1972 as an offshoot of Something Else Press when Herman rejected Amigo for publication. Unpublished Editions was a hybrid between the traditional small press and an artists' cooperative. Its members included Higgins, Knowles, Cage, Philip Corner, Geoffrey Hendricks, Jackson Mac Low, Pauline Oliveros, and later, Jerome Rothenberg. It was renamed Printed Editions in 1978 and discontinued in 1985.

In 1974 Higgins had a nervous breakdown. He recuperated at Silver Hill Sanitarium for several months. The breakdown was caused by a combination of many factors: financial difficulties due to the renovation of his Vermont home, and personal problems, including a long bout with alcoholism and an increasingly problematic relationship with Eugene Williams, Emmett's son. The breakdown was precipitated by severe loneliness during his DAAD grant stay in Berlin. His lodgings were in an old castle on the outskirts of town, away from his friends and most other DAAD recipients. He became painfully lonely, had little money and drank heavily. He was forced to leave the program early, but later returned in 1981.

Higgins has had long-term relationships with both Eugene Williams in the early to mid 1970s and Bryan McHugh from the mid 1980s to the 1990s. Higgins' homosexuality is most notably illustrated in his books Amigo, For Eugene in Germany and Of Celebration of Morning and his many poetry contributions for gay magazines. His writings about homosexuality virtually ceased in the early 1980s after the commercial failure of Of Celebration of Morning and his remarriage to Knowles.

When Higgins' health improved, he entered graduate studies in English at New York University, 1975-1979. He received a master of arts degree in 1977. Higgins' studies led to his discovery of old visual poetry. His masters thesis was refined into his first scholarly publication, George Herbert's Pattern Poems: in their Tradition, 1977, which became the foundation for his research on Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature, 1987. Higgins attempted to enter New York University's Ph.D. program, but aborted the idea when he failed all of his qualifying exams in 1979.

When Higgins' financial problems became acute again in 1980, he moved from his large house in Vermont, with its indoor swimming pool, and bought and renovated a church in Barrytown, New York. Among his neighbors was George Quasha, publisher of Station Hill Press, who published, among others, Robert Kelly and Jackson Mac Low. Higgins found his new home small, but adaptable to his needs. From 1980-1983 he published many collections of scores including Piano Album and Sonata for Prepared Piano . Higgins also completed his DAAD fellowship in Berlin from 1981-1982.

From the 80's to his death Higgins spent much of his time writing scholarly bibliographies and theoretical discourses. Upon Higgins' return from Germany he delved into the subject of pattern poetry, which preoccupied him for over twenty years. His most intensive research occurred from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. Higgins' involvement with pattern poetry culminated in 1986-1987 with the publication of the pattern poetry issue of Visible Language, which Higgins edited, and his book Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature . He also attended the Wolfenbüttel Conference (1987) on pattern poetry as an expert in the field.

Higgins remained active throughout the 1990s. Among his many projects, he edited and annotated Charles Doria's translation of Giordano Bruno's On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas, 1991 and wrote Modernism Since Postmodernism, 1997. Higgins died October 26, 1998 in Quebec City, Canada.

From the guide to the Dick Higgins papers, 1960-1994, 1972-1993, (Getty Research Institute)

Dick Higgins (1938-1998), poet, printer, composer, artist and critical theorist, described the fusion of the arts as “intermedia,” his term for experimental artistic expression which crossed the boundaries of media traditionally divided into poetry, drama, music, and visual arts. Higgins was one of the co-founders of Fluxus and publisher of Something Else Press (1964-1973), Unpublished Editions (1972-1977), and Printed Editions (1978-1985). He wrote notations and scores for performance Happenings which fused theatre and music; created paintings, sculpture, films and large graphics; and participated in symposia to define concepts in the new movement. He was married to Fluxus artist Alison Knowles.

Born Richard Carter Higgins in Cambridge, England, March 15, 1938, Higgins studied at New York's Columbia University, the Manhattan School of Printing, and the New School of Social Research with John Cage and Henry Cowell (1958-1959). He met George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen and other artists in Cage's composition class. Between 1959 and 1961 Higgins and other students of Cage began producing multi-media Happenings in New York, culminating in the poly-art concept of Fluxus when George Maciunas began his Fluxus press in 1961. Higgins founded Something Else Press to produce his work Jefferson's Birthday/Postface (1964) after collaborating with Maciunas. Higgins continued to publish experimental literature, adding a newsletter and gallery as well. In 1966 the Something Else Gallery displayed the first exhibit of concrete poetry in the United States.

While living in West Glover, Vermont (1971-1980) and Barrytown, New York (1980-1998), Dick Higgins continued his unconventional publishing of artists' books through Unpublished Editions and Printed Editions imprints. The small press served as an artists' cooperative and members included Higgins and Knowles, John Cage, Philip Corner, Geoffrey Hendricks, Jackson Mac Low, Pauline Oliveros and Jerome Rothenberg.

Higgins' interests took a scholarly turn after studying for a master of arts degree in English at New York University (1975-1979). He refined his master's thesis on visual poetry, published as George Herbert's Pattern Poems: in their Tradition (1977), into a broader study, Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature (1987). He continued his research into the traditions of pattern poetry, becoming a recognized expert in the field. He also pursued his interests in music and published scores including Piano Album and Sonata for Prepared Piano. Generally, his writing became more theoretical in the 1980s and 1990s. He edited an annotated Charles Doria's translation of Giordano Bruno's On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas (1991) and wrote Modernism Since Postmodernism (1997). Higgins died on October 26, 1998 while at a conference in Quebec City, Canada.

From the guide to the Dick Higgins Archive, 1958-1998, (Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. Papers, 1923-1995. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Snyder, Ellsworth. Ellsworth Snyder collection of Fluxus multiples and ephemera, 1958-1987. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931-. Jerome Rothenberg collection on American literature, 1959-1995. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Voices signalling through the flames : an opera for Zev Putterman / by Dick Higgins. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Williams, Emmett,. Concrete poetry archives, early 1940's-1967. G-L. Library of Congress
creatorOf Klactoveedsedsteen. Klactoveedsedsteen Records, 1965-1969. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Dick Higgins Archive, 1958-1998 Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections
referencedIn Ken Friedman Collection, 1964 - 1971 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Ballerini, Luigi. Vertical files on concrete and visual poetry and "la nuova scrittura," ca. 1969-1984. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Kaprow, Allan. Allan Kaprow papers, ca. 1940-1997. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Oren, Michel. Michel Oren interviews with artists : transcripts, 1979-1991. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Friedman, Ken. Collection, 1964-1971. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Office files : of The American Poetry Review, 1979. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Akasegawa, Gempei. Miscellaneous papers relating to Fluxus from the Ellsworth Snyder Collection, ca. 1964-ca. 1987. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-. Dick Higgins papers, 1958-1997. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Gary Snyder Papers, 1910-2003;, (1945-2002 bulk) University of California, Davis. General Library. . Dept. of Special Collections
referencedIn Knowles, Alison, 1933-. Oral history interview with Alison Knowles, 2010 June 1-2. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Richards, Mary Caroline. Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Carl Weissner Archive, 1965-1973 Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections
creatorOf Bernstein, Charles, 1950-. Charles Bernstein papers, 1962-2000. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Dick Higgins Collection, 1958-2002 UMBC, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery
creatorOf Finlay, Ian Hamilton,. Ian Hamilton Finlay correspondence, 1962-1969. G-L. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Allan Kaprow papers, 1940-1997 Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Aram Saroyan Papers., undated, 1950-1977. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Charles Bernstein Papers, 1962-2000 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. [Programs]. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Franklin Furnace artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn Oren, Michel. Michel Oren interviews with artists, 1979-1991. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Dick Higgins papers, ca. 1960-1994 (bulk 1972-1993). Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Montag, Tom. Tom Montag papers, 1966-2002. University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Murphy Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Correspondence : with Singing Horse Press, 1988. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Schneemann, Carolee, 1939-. Carolee Schneemann papers, 1959-1994. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1973-2008 Archives of American Art
referencedIn De Hirsh Margules papers, 1888-2001, bulk 1923-1965 Archives of American Art
creatorOf Byrum, John. [Cleveland poetry chapbook collection]. Cleveland Public Library, Main Library
creatorOf Held, John, 1947-. John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1973-2008. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Margules, De Hirsh, 1899-1965. De Hirsh Margules papers, 1888-2001, bulk 1923-1965. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Carolee Schneemann papers, 1959-1994 Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Wilentz, Ted. Ted and Joan Wilentz collection of Fluxus-related materials, 1963-1983. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Ephemera. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library
creatorOf Jean Brown papers, 1916-1995 Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Nicolas Slonimsky Collection, 1873-1997, (bulk 1920-1990) Music Division Library of Congress
creatorOf Williams, Emmett. Four directional song of doubt. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
creatorOf Bergé, Carol, 1928-2006. Papers. Washington University in St. Louis, .
creatorOf Dick Higgins papers, 1960-1994, 1972-1993 Getty Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith B., Mats person
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associatedWith Cook, Geoffrey person
associatedWith Cook, Geoffrey. person
associatedWith Cooper, Michael, 1930- person
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associatedWith Dick, William. person
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associatedWith Friedman, Ken, 1949- person
correspondedWith Friedman, Ken, 1949- person
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associatedWith Giorno, John. person
associatedWith Gomringer, Eugen, 1925- person
associatedWith Gris, Juan, 1887-1927. person
associatedWith Gutman, Walter, 1903-1986. person
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associatedWith Hatherly, Ana person
associatedWith Hatherly, Ana. person
associatedWith Held, John person
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associatedWith Hendricks, Geoffrey person
associatedWith Hendricks, Geoffrey. person
associatedWith Huntly, Gordon. person
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associatedWith Jacoby, Ruth. person
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associatedWith Kempton, Karl person
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associatedWith McCaffery, Steve. person
associatedWith McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980. person
associatedWith Mew, Tommy person
associatedWith Mew, Tommy. person
associatedWith Miller, Larry, composer. person
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associatedWith Moore, Peter. person
associatedWith Moran, Robert, 1937- person
associatedWith Morris, Michael, 1942- person
associatedWith Morrow, Charlie person
associatedWith Morrow, Charlie. person
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correspondedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
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associatedWith Pederson, Knud. person
associatedWith Peters, Robert, 1924- person
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associatedWith Phillips, Michael Joseph. person
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associatedWith Printed Editions corporateBody
associatedWith Printed Editions. corporateBody
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associatedWith ReFlux Editions. corporateBody
associatedWith Reichert, Josua, 1937- person
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associatedWith Richards, Mary Caroline. person
associatedWith Ridder, Willem de. person
associatedWith Riddle, James. person
associatedWith Rillo. person
associatedWith Robson, Ernest M. person
associatedWith Roth, Dieter, 1930-1998. person
associatedWith Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- person
associatedWith Rypson, Piotr. person
associatedWith Sarenco, 1945- person
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correspondedWith Saroyan, Aram. person
associatedWith Schneemann, Carolee person
associatedWith Schneemann, Carolee, 1939- person
associatedWith Sharits, Paul. person
associatedWith Shiomi, Mieko. person
correspondedWith Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995 person
associatedWith Snyder, Ellsworth. person
associatedWith Snyder, Gary person
associatedWith Sohm, Hanns, 1921- person
associatedWith Something Else Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Spoerri, Daniel, 1930- person
associatedWith Starr, Frances. person
associatedWith Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946. person
associatedWith Toorn, Jan van, 1932- person
associatedWith Topor, Roland, 1938-1997. person
associatedWith Tóth, Gábor. person
associatedWith Tóth, Gábor person
associatedWith Truck, Fred. person
associatedWith Unpublished Editions corporateBody
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associatedWith Vautier, Ben, 1935- person
associatedWith Vostell, Wolf, 1932-1998. person
associatedWith Watts, Robert, 1923-1988. person
associatedWith Weissner, Carl person
associatedWith Wilentz, Ted. person
associatedWith Williams, Emmett person
associatedWith Williams, Emmett. person
associatedWith Williams, Eugene, 1955- person
associatedWith Williams, Jonathan, 1929- person
associatedWith Williams, Jonathan, 1929-2008. person
associatedWith Young, La Monte. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Fluxus (Group of artists)
Poetry, Modern--20th century
Music--20th century
Arts--Experimental methods
Mail art
Performance art--United States
Happening (Art)
Publishers and publishing--United States
Avant-garde (Aesthetics)
Small presses
Small presses--United States
Avant-garde (Music)
Publishers and Publishing
Composers--United States--Correspondence
Performance art
Small press books
Art, Modern--20th century
Concrete poetry
Composers--United States--20th century
Art, American--20th century
Occupation
Collector
Function

Person

Birth 1938-03-15

Death 1998-10-25

Americans

English

Information

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