The title of the print refers to an alleged plot by a group of seven antiwar activists led by the Rev. Philip Berrigan and other priests and nuns to conspire to kidnap presidential aide Henry Kissinger and blow up the federal government’s heating system in Washington. The indictment was brought against the so-called Harrisburg Seven by the Nixon Administration in early 1971 and went to trial in April 1972. The jury’s week-long deliberations ended in a mistrial, with only two jurors holding out for conviction while the other 10 saw the government’s accusation as preposterous and voted to acquit. The case was never retried. Fahlström’s irreverent take on the event — with the tiny red car at the end of one of the paths and with a blue police car in pursuit — seems to echo the comments of one of the jurors quoted in a New York Times article after the mistrial: “I’d have to say that the whole thing sounded rather funny — a bunch of priests and nuns zipping off with Henry Kissinger.”
Öyvind Fahlström was a Swedish artist who emigrated to New York City in the early 1960s, and was closely associated with the avant-garde art scene of Lower Manhattan, collaborating with Robert Rauschenburg and Claes Oldenburg. He participated in happenings, installation art, and conceptual art, and produced paintings and drawings influenced by the style of underground comic artists such as R. Crumb, as well as writing a manifesto for concrete poetry and numerous essays and articles about aesthetics. Art historian Jesper Ohlsson calls him “without doubt the most renowned Swedish artist of the post-war decades.”
Condition: Generally fine overall with only very light toning and wear.
Bigart, Homer. “The Nation.” New York Times. 9 April 1972. p. 2. https://www.nytimes.com/1972/04/09/archives/a-strategy-that-backfired-berrigan-case.html (16 March 2018).
Graham, Fred P. “Plot to Kidnap Kissinger Is Charged; Philip berrigan and 5 Others Indicted.” New York Times. 13 January 1971. p. 1. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/01/13/archives/plot-to-kidnap-kissinger-is-charged-philip-berrigan-and-5-others.html
Olsson, Jesper. “Policis and Play — the Impure Arts of Öyvind Fahlström” in A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1950-1975. Brill, 2016. pp. 53-62. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=i7W9CwAAQBAJ&pg=PA62 (16 March 2018).
“Öyvind Fahlström, Sketch for Kidnapping Kissinger.” MOMA. https://www.moma.org/collection/works/68204 (16 March 2018).