Since Al's death in 1995, I have received thousands of cards, letters and emails from friends, students and fans around the world. They attest to his amazing generosity of spirit and self.
Fellow artists' most common comment regarding Al Hansen applauds his stamina and the time and energy he devoted to his students and the young artists he always seemed to attract and be attracted to. Ever striving for an egalitarian ideal, Al preferred to call them young or developing artists; he thought of them always as young contemporaries. Wherever Al Hansen went, an instant community of active and energetic young people sprung up around.
Throughout Al Hansen's life he ran an off-the-cuff, subversive, underground unofficial academy of sorts. For the most part it operated out of coffeehouses and bars, in and around schools and on street corners. As often as not these "schools" existed wherever Al himself happened to be at the moment, and had little tangible assets outside of Al and his "students", though each was usually documented by logos, rubber stamps, business cards and sometimes even newspaper ads.
Hollywood Institute for Contemporary Arts. Energy Systems for Creative Expressors, Museum of the Year 2000: Post-Civilization Art, Women's Art Collection, Action Art & Body Art Documentation, Al Hansen Foundation.
The Skandinavian Basic Research Institute was his title for activities in Skandinavia and during his visit to an Eskimo art school on Greenland at Nuuk, Godthap.
Al Hansen: Psycholinguistic Research, 110 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102. This was the title of his operations while he was teaching at Rutgers University.
Hollywood Institute for Contemporary Art. Psycho-Socio-Meta Energy Systems, Al Hansen--Director (by appointment only) 7021 Lanewood Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90028
Al Hansen, 3rd Rail Time-Space Arts, 431 West B'way, SOHO 10012
Ever fascinated and endlessly beguiled by art and the art process, Al enjoyed the company of these fervent and eager newcomers and delighted in provoking, challenging and encouraging them to work and be involved with art and art-making. His ebullience captivated and enthused. He passionately believed in an art world system that was open and accessible. He stressed to young artists the importance of getting out and around and becoming known and integrated into the arts community.
He could generally be seen most weekends in NYC throughout the 60's and most of the 70's with a gang of young people in tow, traipsing from gallery to gallery, exultantly soaking up the atmosphere and the art. Whenever possible Al made it a point to introduce and connect these young people up with more established art community members.
It perplexed him when artists who had been fortunate enough to attain success and access would then, so often, refuse to help others along the way or even sometimes, go out of their way to bar others from achieving even the tiniest step forward. He stood against those narrow-minded and dogmatic types jealously guarding the gallery and museum entrance, seeking to hinder and constrain the untried, untested and the new. He felt that closing things off and preventing access to all but a lucky few, was a contraction that stunted human art evolution.
Al believed in a world of endless possibilities and limitless opportunities. Over the years he inspired many others to embrace his audacious optimism and to cheerfully question anyone and everyone who thought otherwise. In an artworld that is often petty and exclusionary, consumed by prestige-chasing, careerism and selfish ambition, Al Hansen fought for inclusion, collaboration and support for new art and new artists. Often acting against his best interests, he sought to fling wide the gates to the ivory tower and open it to all that were inclined to enter.
Al's supportive embrace and celebration extended to his older peers as well. Armin Hundertmark, a Cologne art dealer, once confided that even though Al rarely had very much money, when a sale was arranged and Al was paid, often his first order of business was to spend a healthy part of it on other artists' artwork and editions purchased from Hundertmark.
When Al left us on June 20, 1995 the world lost an ardent and irrepressible art champion. To commemorate and celebrate the man and his work, I propose and offer a series of Actions to be done in Al Hansen's honor:
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