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Artist Al Hansen

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Al Hansen, an avant-garde American artist who helped create the Happenings of the 1960s, has died at age 67.

Chris Newman, a friend and collaborator, said the artist apparently died of a heart attack June 19 at his Cologne apartment. Neighbors found his body two days later.

Mr. Hansen, born in New York, spent much of the postwar period in Germany, where he served two terms in the U.S. military in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1946, while in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, he created what may have been the first Happening, dropping a piano off a four-story building at an Armed Forces show in Frankfurt.

Happenings were art projects, often using paintings, theater, music and film in combination, that were often collaborative and used ready-to-hand materials. Mr. Hansen's paintings often used collages of cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers and burnt matches.

The international Happenings movement was known as Fluxus. Mr. Hansen was one of a group of artists in New York in the late 1950s influenced by musician John Cage, who made recordings of various natural and industrial sounds.

In the early 1980s Mr. Hansen worked in New York, creating multimedia performances that included music, light projects and films he made himself. His trademark in the galleries had become collages of found objects that represented a Venus figure, Newman said.