1.7.1.1 Action Painting (1950s)

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QUICK LINKS:
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30}, Pollock
Chief, Kline
Lavender Mist (Number One), Pollock
Black and Red, Francis
Woman III, de Kooning
Blue Poles (aka Number 11), Pollock
No 3, Rothko

Untitled (1954), Mitchell
Vital Geometry, Wilson
La Garrigue, Fautrier
Boon, Brooks
Mr Stella, Shiraga
Tribute to Carbon Atom, Wilson
18 Happenings in 6 events, Kaprow
Untitled (1960), Mitchell

Action Painting was first coined by art critic Harold Rosenberg in 1952. He intended it as an alternative to Abstract Expressionism, he believed the new term better emphasised the revolutionary nature of the artist’s decision to paint.

Rosenberg elaborated on ideas of painting as an action, based on what he had heard in artists’ studios. He wove them with Marxist theory, existential philosophy and his thoughts on drama to articulate his description of this new style of American painting. What resulted on the canvas was, in Rosenberg’s words, ‘not a picture but an event’.

He opined that Action Painters were not interested in depicting illusionistic scenes but were rendering the energy and movement of life in a visible way onto the canvas.

[1711-10]


Image source: theartstory.org
Many speculate that Jackson Pollock was Rosenberg’s primary model for his description of Action Painting, although arguments exists for other artists. Pollock’s paintings have become synonymous with Action Painting.

Autumn Rhythm is a drip painting, using black, brown, and white enamel paint. Pollock laid out a large canvas on the floor of his studio, and systematically poured, dribbled, and flung paint across its surface.

Pollock’s large-scale work was rooted in the muralism of the 1930s, including the art of Thomas Hart Benton and David Alfaro Siqueiros, both of whom he had worked alongside.
Pollock said in 1947: I intend to paint large movable pictures which will function between the easel and the mural.

On another occasion he commented:
When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. Pollock.
[Source: metmuseum.org/
Wikimedia commons]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)1950Enamel/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, aged 44American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-11]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York526 x 267
Chief was the name of a locomotive Kline remembered from his childhood, when he had loved the railway. Many viewers see machinery in Kline’s images, and there are lines in Chief that imply speed and power as they rush off the edge of the canvas, swelling tautly as they go.

Franz Kline began his career as a figurative painter, his brushstrokes decribed as Abstract Expressionism. But in the late 1940s, he used a projector to enlarge his drawing of a black rocking chair onto the wall. Intrigued by the way the image appeared abstract when it was enlarged, he decided to dedicate himself to creating large-scale, black-on-white abstract works.

Klein commented:
I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important.
[Source: moma.org /
Wikimedia commoms]

Image source: theartstory.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Chief1950Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Kline, Franz1910–1962, aged 52American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-12]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York187 x 147

Image source: nga.gov
A 1945 exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery may have given fresh impetus to Jackson Pollock’s distinctively linear allover format. This show consisted of small gouaches by Joan Miro smuggled out of occupied France. Comprised of scattered cartoon-like forms connected by a thin tracery of autonomous lines, these works were called ‘Constellations’.

Pollock cited that Miro was an artist he admired most, other than Picasso. Some art critics suggest Miro was a direct precursor of the type of works Pollock later produced.

Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist) embodies a breakthrough Pollock reached between 1947 and 1950. It was painted in an old barn-turned-studio at the East End of Long Island. The property led directly to Accabonac Creek, where eelgrass marshes and watery light were said to be a source of inspiration.
[Source: nga.gov/ jackson-pollock.org / Wikimedia commons]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Lavender Mist (Number One)1950oil, enamel, and aluminum on canvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, aged 44American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-13]

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC USA300 x 221
Francis was influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still and by Jackson Pollock. He later associated with a second generation of abstract expressionists, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of colour.

He spent the 1950s in Paris, having his first exhibition there at the Galerie Nina Dausset in 1952. While in Paris he became associated with Tachisme.

After his 1953 painting Big Red was included in the 1956 exhibition Twelve Artists at MOMA New York, Francis began a rapid rise to international prominence. Because he worked and exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia, Sam Francis is credited with helping secure international recognition for postwar American painting.
[Source: guggenheim.org / christies.com/ Wikimedia commons]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Black and Red1950-1953Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Francis, Sam1923-1994, aged 71American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-14]

Honolulu Museum of Art0

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning produced between 1951 and 1953 and shocked the art world when he showed the series at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1953.

De Kooning avoided suggestions of misogyny by stating his Women were the modern equivalents of ancient idols and by highlighting the humour in his representations.
[Source: Wikimdeia commons]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Woman III1951-3Oil/CanvasAbstract/ Portrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, William1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-15]

Private Collection (Steven A Cohen)173 x 123
Blue Poles, also known as Number 11, 1952 is an abstract expressionist painting by American artist Jackson Pollock. It was purchased amid controversy by the National Gallery of Australia in 1973 and today remains one of the gallery’s major paintings.

The painting was used as the signature work of a MOMA retrospective exhibition of Polllock’s work in 1998/9.
[Source: moma.org /
Wikimedia commons]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Blue Poles1952Enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, aged 44American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-16]

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra489 x 212

Image source: metmuseum.org
After works in the Expressionism and Surrealism forms, Rothko found his style in 1950. Using canvases roughly the height and width of a human standing with outstretched arms, he created what he sometimes called doors and windows in luminous colour. My pictures are indeed facades.

There is argument about whether Rothko, a colour field painted, was an action painter. But Elaine de Kooning suggested that Rothko and Klein, saw the content of their art as moral rather than aesthetic.
[Source: metmuseum.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
No 31953Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Rothko, Mark1903-1970, aged 67American painter (Latvian Jewish descent)Action Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-17]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York173 x 138
Around 1950, Joan Mitchell moved to NYC to pursue her painting career and spent time working and socialising with the Abstract Expressionists in Greenwich Village. Some consider her as a second generation Abstract Expressionist but her paintings stand comparison with the first generation.
[Source: joanmitchellfoundation.org]

Image source: joanmitchellfoundation.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Untitled (1954)1954Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Mitchell, Joan1926-1992, aged 67American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-18]

Centre Pompidou, Paris France254 x 203

Image source: artsy.net
Frank Avray Wilson was a British artist and author, one of the first British artists to use Tachist or action painting techniques.

Inspired by both American Abstract Expressionism and French Tachisme, Avray Wilson produced amongst the most dynamic abstracts during the post-war period in Britain. His work ranged from spiky linear compositions, through others more spare and geometric towards a mature style that comprised images both disciplined and energetic.
[Source: artsy.net /
Wikimedia commons]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Vital Geometry1955Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Wilson, Frank Avray1914-2009, aged 105British painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-19]

185 x 58
Fautrier’s La Garrigue demonstrates how closely related European Tachiste painting was to the contemporaneous, American-based Action Painting.

The French word tache means spot or splash. In La Garrigue, which means scrubland, Fautrier focused on a central area of dry, densely-applied paint, suggesting a device that was absent from the appearance of much New York School painting of this time. Fautrier instead creates a relationship between the murky blue edges of the work and the compact sweeps of green paint at the centre of the work.
[Source: parismuseescollections.paris.fr]

Image source: parismuseescollections.paris.fr
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
La Garrigue1956Oil/Paper/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Fautrier, Jean1898-1964, aged 66French painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-20]

Museé d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

Image source: tate.org.uk
Boon was made by Brooks in 1957. To create it he applied oil paints to cotton duck canvas that had been treated with rabbit-skin glue. According to Brooks, the painting’s title does not share any deliberate resonant meaning with the painting and exists merely as a means of identifying the work. [Source: tate.org.uk]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Boon1957Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Brooks, James David1906-1992, aged 85American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-21]

Tate Gallery180 x 173
Shiraga Kazuo is well known for his dynamic action painting. He painted with his bare feet by holding onto a rope hanging from the ceiling sweep stroking his paint-covered feet over the canvas or paper. This method removed a degree of control from the artist. While our hands are dexterous and capable of finely nuanced manipulations of paint, our feet are clumsy and give an imprecise finish. It was Shiraga’s intention, therefore, to make himself a hostage to the accidents of a less controlled process.

In Mr Stella a number of arcs and circles can be seen, but no single element stands out. It is evident he was working wet paint into wet paint, adding new layers when lower layers had not yet dried, thus disturbing each layer as he worked.
[Source: nak-osaka.jp]

Image source: nak-osaka.jp
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Mr Stella1958Oil/Japanese Paper/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Shiraga, Kazuō 1924-2008, aged 83Japanese painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-22]

Osaka City Museum of Modern Art, Osaka, Japan273 x 183

Image source: artsy.net
Wilson was born in Vacoas, Mauritius, in 1914, the son of Albert James Wilson, a sugar manufacturer. He was educated at Brighton College and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in biology, before studying art in Paris and Norway.

Avray Wilson’s work is held in the United States by the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg and Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio among others. His work can also be found in Australia in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Public collections in the UK include the Arts Council, the British Museum and galleries in Durham, Leeds, Leicester, Swansea and Wakefield.
[Source: artsy.net/
Wikimedia commons]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Tribute to Carbon Atom1958Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Wilson, Frank Avray1914-2009, aged 105British painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-23]

183 x60
18 Happenings in 6 events
by Allan Kaprow an American painter, assemblagist and a pioneer in establishing the concepts of performance art.

He helped to develop the “Environment” and “Happening” in the late 1950s and 1960s, as well as their theory. His Happenings — some 200 of them — evolved over the years.

18 Happenings in 6 Parts took place over six days, between 4th and 10th of October 1959 at Reuben Gallery in New York. The performance was divided into six parts, each consisting of three simultaneous happenings .

18 Happenings in 6 events had four levels, termed suchness, fantasy, structure and meaning. It also had eleven rules, perhaps the most intriguing being ‘Forget all the standard art forms’, ‘The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible’, ‘don’t rehearse the happenings’, ‘perform the happening only once.’ and ‘there will be no applause after each set, but you may applaud after the sixth set if you wish.’
[Source: moma.org/ psychedelicsangha.org]






Image source: moma.org/ psychedelicsangha.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
18 Happenings in 6 events19590Happening
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Kaprow, Allan 1927-2006, aged 78American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1711-24]

First performed at the Reuben Gallery, New York

Image source: joanmitchellfoundation.org
Mitchell often read poetry or listened to music while she prepared to paint. The emotions aroused in these activities combined with her memories, long past and current, to create dynamic compositions.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation explains, Mitchell’s process is informed by a range of emotional states, points in time, and positions in landscape, and her work is an affirmation that people experience landscapes, emotions and memories in a complex, interconnected way.
[Source: joanmitchellfoundation.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Untitled (1960)1960Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Mitchell, Joan1926-1992, aged 67American painterAction Painting
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):
Joan Mitchell Foundation203 x 122

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