Harold Rosenberg, "The American Action Painters
," first published in Art News 51/8 (December 1952), 22.
Middleton's poems have a tensile, torqued character (his first collection is entitled Torse 3) that, along with his improvisatory methods, have a certain kinship with what Harold Rosenberg called the Action Painters
(especially de Kooning, Pollock, Kline).
Sirc grounds his ideas about college writing instruction in theories and practices from the arts, including the multimedia "happenings" of Robert Raucshenberg, the aesthetics of action painters
such as Jackson Pollock, and the anti-modernism of Marcel Duchamp.
He was called "the Dean of Western Action Painters
" by his peers.
Mitchell must have found especially appealing the swift, sure, dancelike way the TV painter dashed his brush across the canvas, just as so-called action painters
were supposed to do, but left, at the same time, a recognizable image behind.
Now the possibility that it might be the fate of mural-scale abstract painting to be experienced as wall decoration--"wallpaper" as Harold Rosenberg derisively characterized it in "The American Action Painters
"--was an issue that was deeply troubling to virtually all of the painters of the New York School.
In photographs from the fifties the action painters
' wives are decked out, living dolls, the men self-important,
Dadaism subsequently subsumed a broad range of styles and media: Dadaists, Action painters
, Abstract Expressionists, Pop artists, and New Wave filmmakers all showed a passion for commenting on the underlying social relations and on the cynicism, ennui, and disillusionment inherent in the struggle to relate ourselves to a world of unparalleled and unchecked technological advance and information explosion and a social order still buried in barbarism and discord.
Such concerns are also evident in Harold Rosenberg's 1952 essay "The American Action Painters
," where the difficulty of the new work is not just that the canvas has become "an arena in which to act," as Rosenberg so famously puts it, but also that "the painter has become an actor," with all the ambiguity that phrase implies.
Brakhage's handpainted films can be seen as literalizing Harold Rosenberg's description of de Kooning, Franz Kline, and other Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s as "action painters
." In Brakhage's work, the paintings are no mere traces of the painter's activities but, indeed, act their actions as they move across the screen--the images, colors, and frames developing as sensible experience over time and through space.
Unlike the action painters
, who literally jumped around the canvas in an attempt to dissolve the boundaries of their bodies and liberate them, I don't need to put force into the act of painting.