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Map, United States, Pictorial, Kidnapping Kissinger, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Modern Art Screenprint, 1974

Öyvind Fahlström (1928-1976)
Sketch for Kidnapping Kissinger
New York: 1974
Screenprint, artist’s proof
Edition AP 1/10 and signed in pencil lower right
23.25 x 35.25, image
27.5 x 39.25 inches, overall

Screenprint in the form of a pictorial map of the United States, part of a series of satirical political works made by artist Öyvind Fahlström in the 1970s that combined maps, board games, and the iconography of comics. The print is based on Fahlström’s original drawing in acrylic and India ink on vinyl paper that he made in 1972. Conceptually and stylistically, it is a logical extension of his interest in combining text and images and is among numerous designs for board games that he drew as a Dadaist commentary on the excesses of capitalism and the politics of the Vietnam War era. Kidnapping Kissinger is often cited as one of the key works he produced in that period. It is loosely composed as an eccentric “map” of the United States with a grid in the top portion, labeled with abbreviated names of states that loosely correspond to their relative locations, through which a path is delineated with tiny squares. The bottom portion consists of a welter of irregularly outlined texts that reference place names and events and incorporate doodle-like drawings. The print was published in 1974 in an edition of 100 with 10 artist’s proofs. AP 8/10 is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Description

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.

References:

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).