Benjamin Patterson, a founding member of Fluxus, died this weekend at his home in Wiesbaden, Germany, reports ARTnews. He was 82 years old.
An artist, composer, and musician, Patterson was born in Pittsburgh in 1934 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1956 with a degree in music. He could not find a job in the United States because he was black, so he played with various orchestral groups in Canada and went on to perform throughout Europe, helping George Maciunas stage the first Fluxus International Festival in 1962 in Wiesbaden.
Although Patterson still worked in arts-related positions, he stopped making work around 1970 in order to earn more money for his family. After his children were grown, Patterson returned to art in 1987, creating assemblages, performing, and staging participatory artworks.
Valerie Cassel Oliver, senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, who curated his first retrospective, Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of FLUX/us in 2010/2011, and included him in a later group exhibition, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, gave Glasstire the following statement:
It was a true honor to have known Ben. He was thoughtful, kind and filled with enormous curiosity and a zeal for life. His many works—whether visual art objects, scores for actions or performances—were so layered and multifaceted that it took a moment to realize that they were built upon rigorous research cloaked in a witty haiku. Ben led a very full life and lived intensely. He died doing what he loved best, making art. I feel so immensely privileged to have shared his brilliance with the world.
When Radical Presence traveled to the Walker Art Center, its Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) interviewed Patterson and asked him about his five favorite noises: