AB Exorcism! Applied Action Painting and Inverted Arenas
Platteforum Artist Residency exhibition // In collaboration with local teen interns, Denver, CO
Harold Rosenberg coined the phrase “Action Painting” in 1952 to describe a loose, gestural Abstract Expressionist painting style. When artists like Pollock placed their works on the floor and engaged their whole bodies in a performative painting process, he claimed that the canvas became “an arena in which to act.”
This post-war movement shifted the international center of the art world to the US for the first time and championed emotional expression of mainly white men. We now know that the CIA funded & exported major international exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist artworks as American individualist propaganda during the Cold War.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, painting was thought by many to be dead, but the active/athletic-wear industry, pioneered by Nike in the late 60s and 70s, had begun to appropriate gestural action painting motifs in their garments. The iconic painterly SWOOSH was designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971, but such garments continued to be made by exploited workers in sweatshops.
Resident Artist Maria Molteni has been working the ArtLab teens for the last six weeks, unpacking & dismantling the histories of these intersecting arenas. They built their own white cube arena inside the the space and filled it with the work of artists and ideas that have been historically excluded. During this time, Molteni and the interns talked a lot about how one can incorporate ideas and processes in one’s daily life, all the while being critical of them. Together, they worked to EXORCISE the toxic demons of the past and EXERCISE their abilities to express difficult feelings through art. They slung and splashed onto the walls collaboratively, using implements that they created from athletic equipment & traditional painting tools.
The teams created playful, humorous identities and “un-branding” schemes, transforming the enormous paintings into wearable athletic uniforms, further emphasizing the relationship of painting to the body. They then created the uniforms themselves and re-activated conversations about action, art & the arena.
At the opening, visitors were asked to respond to the prompts:
EXORCISE! What do you/we need to get out of your/the system?
EXERCISE! What would you like to strengthen or practice to chance the system?
Special Thanks to Rebecca Vaughan, Amanda Flores, Kim McCarty and the amazing teen interns of Platteforum!