Review of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Rhode Island School of Design
Below is a review of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable show at the Rhode Island School of Design, featuring the Velvet Underground that appeared in the R.I.S.D. publication, Blockprint. The original article also includes a large spread of photographs of the event, headed "March 31st and April 1st, A Pictorial Essay, Andy Warhol & The Velvet Underground."(The article and photos are reproduced in The Inevitable World of The Velvet Underground.)
This is followed by an article from the same issue of Blockprint about a RISD student architecture event that took place on March 31st that was apparently part of a weekend of activities that included the performance by the Velvets although they are not specifically mentioned in the article.
An interview with Warhol from the same issue can be found here.
Bill Dunning ("Andy's Gang," Blockprint (Rhode Island School of Design), April 10, 1967, vol. 16, no. 21 as reprinted in Alfredo Garcia (ed.) The Inevitable World of The Velvet Underground, p. 125):
To those of you who spent incredible amounts of money on the "Warhol" show... I can only commiserate with you.
I and most of the people I've talked to about the show thought the "inevitable" itself rather anti-climatic to the name. The show was something that everyone here at RISD is or should be quite familiar with. Bands with flashing lights and undulating colours have become perhaps a bit too common. (We've seen the Sonic Wallpaper. What else can they show us?) If you'd care to hit closer to home, there's always Martin Mull and the team, and I found the single light sculpture at his event much more intriguing than the entire "Warhol show."
Some people I talked to said the show was great because they were in the bag and they argued the only way to go to something like that was to get really gassed first and get up and dance and writhe. I agree with this wholeheartedly, but I just can't resign myself to the price charged and the general lack of merit exhibited by the Velvet Underground. I can go and get bagged, and and listen to better for much less.
I just thought the show generally lost from beginning to end. When they did hit on something good they kept it up to the verge of insanity, like Gerd Stern's tromp last year. (Personally, I found Gerd Stern more entertaining.) It was a poor band, a few lights, a few straight people, a few bombed people, a spectacular name, an exorbitant price, and a rather boring evening to say the least.
Below is the article on the student "happening" that took place on 31 March 1967:
John Roberts ("A Happening? No, Just a Project," Blockprint (Rhode Island School of Design), April 10, 1967, vol. 16, no. 21 as reprinted in Alfredo Garcia (ed.) The Inevitable World of The Velvet Underground, p. 125):
On March 31st, a transformation swept over RISD, stayed there for some hours, then vanished, leaving behind the startled and puzzled people who had beheld it during its brief stay.
Throughout that day, numerous RISD students painted sculptures and walls, set up constructions of paper and junk, released and scattered balloons and made vast and impromptu interior design changes all over RISD, while the rest of the students and the residents watched wonderingly, some with amusement, some with disgust. next day, most of those works and changes were gone, cleaned up by the same students who had made them as the Providence Journal reported that event on its first page and labelled it as a "happening."
Only - it wasn't a happening but a short project involving the entire RISD Architecture Department. The students of that department were given the project on March 29th and were told to do it on the 31st, with the purpose to (quoted from their assignment sheets) "Analyze the nature of the activities that take place in one (assigned) area of RISD and propose a means of modifying, reinforcing or transforming these activities and the are at which they take place."
"Create a direct simulation of your proposal for the assigned... using the most effective media..."
They were divided into eighteen teems, each assigned an area, then they went to work. They covered the walls of the Snack Bar with white paper with informative messages scrawled upon them, lowered the ceiling by the means of a false (and sagging) ceiling, replaced the tables and chairs with hexagonal boxes, making the whole place pleasantly informal and strange with the mixture of organism and geometry. In the Bookstore they hung up paintings, cardboard construction lighted from within, and stuffed clothes, making the area an interesting ad mildly decorative jungle. The[y] decorated the terrace between Homer and Nickerson Halls with huge plaster sculptures borrowed from the Sophomore Sculpture class, lending the place a surrealistic air. In the area around the Memorial Hall's Benefit St. entrance they covered the walls and sidewalks with slogans, comments, obscenities, and crude drawings in colored chalk and added a three-dimensional touch by putting up an arch of welded rusty iron barrels, a store clothes dummy splashed with fluorescent paint and other dubious and dirty sculptures, making the place a piece of lavatory wall art. In the Frazier Fountain area they gave the fountain and its sculpture a coat of paint, set up a sort of playground around it and put up a large sign announcing it as a playground... perhaps a nostalgia for childhood fun. And so on with the other areas.
AS the students worked to change their areas, several instructors when around among them, taking color-slide photographs of their efforts for future criticism. (Later, Mr. Bosworth, the head of the Architecture Department, regarded the areas mentioned above and several others as the best efforts... in the terms of change, but only the Bookstore, the Snack Bar, and the Homer-Nickerson Halls' terrace could be truly said to have been improved. For that reason the Bookstore and the terrace have not been cleaned up like the others).
If the project had the makings of a happening, it was because some students used elements of happenings as means to change their areas... or they got carried away and made their project a happening.
Some non-architecture students got aroused by the excitement of the project and joined in, making some "unauthorized" changes. The paint stripes on the Refectory's Watermann St. wall and the flowery "Spring Is Here" on the terrace wall of Homer Hall were some of the results. They were thoughtful enough to use washable paint and chalk like the Architecture students with the exception of one damned person who committed a real act of vandalism by using spray paint on the walls of Memorial Hall, for spray paint on porous rock much be sandblasted in order to be removed, And since the non-architecture students didn't clean up their unauthorized changes, the Student Council was faced with the task of cleaning up the remaining paint and clutter in RISD.
At any rate, that Architecture project certainly gave RISD some excitement and merriment and boosted our reputation as eccentrics in Providence.