Archive of Benjamin Patterson

Fluxus Artis

Ben Patterson


Musician, composer, performance and visual artist, Ben Patterson (né Benjamin Anthony Patterson, Jr., May 29, 1934) established himself as a major contributor to Fluxus and Black performance art in the United States and abroad and maintained a modest international art career between 1960 to 2016. He was born on May 29, 1934, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and passed away on June 25, 2016, at his home in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Over the course of his artistic career, Patterson experimented materially and conceptually with sound and live action with varying mediums. Though known chiefly for work in performance, Patterson expanded his practice to include works on paper, assemblage, installation, video and sculpture.
In the fall of 1962, when German journalists and broadcasters christened “Fluxus” a provocative art movement, Patterson stood among an array of musicians, writers and artists as collaborator and as one of Fluxus’ unanticipated co-founders. As a result, Patterson, a musician at this time, entered an artworld defining itself by rejecting Abstract Expressionism, modernist painting, and the mainstream commercialism of galleries.
Ben Patterson - Self Portrait, Stuttgart, Germany 1960s Self Portrait, 1960s, Stuttgart, Germany

Fluxus offered a critical sensibility that resonated with Patterson during his Proto-Fluxus period (1960-1962); throughout the first generation of Fluxus activity in the sixties; and even during Patterson’s intermittent presence during self-announced period of retirement from art (1966-1988).  He pursued the Fluxus spirit of flow, or the instability of meaning, and antiauthoritarian, antiestablishment approaches to art during his career.

This pathway was unexpected but nonetheless cautiously embraced. Prior to merging his interest in music with contemporary art, Patterson studied classical double bass in pursuit of playing stateside in a US symphony orchestra. He was trained in Pittsburgh and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1956. His initial foray into professional work lead him to Canada, where he played principal double bassist with the Halifax Symphony Orchestra (1957) and toured internationally with the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra (1958 and 1959). De facto segregation in the US was the primary cause that lead him to find employment abroad. 

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Ben Patterson
from methods and processes, 1962

 Credits Photo Gallery