In the late 1940s, American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) placed his canvases on the floor so that he could "feel more a part of the painting" as he dripped and splattered with paint-dipped sticks. His example, captured in a famous series of photographs and films by Hans Namuth, has inspired generations of artists to find ways to place themselves more directly in their work. In 1960, when French conceptual artist Yves Klein (1928-1962) rolled his models in blue paint and pressed their bodies onto canvas, he initiating a more literal approach to using the body as a tool for making art. For contemporary artists, particularly those involved with video and performance, Pollock's and Klein's working methods have proven to be especially fertile ground. This influence is explored in The Body: Expression/Impression, an exhibition on view in the Video Gallery of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from September 9 through November 30, 1997.
Starting points in this exploration are provided by Namuth's famous 1951 film of Pollock and an excerpt from the 1961 film Mondo Cane showing Klein making his Anthropometry paintings. Later works, drawn from the 1970s to the present, extend the possibilities suggested by these two early examples. Some have responded to Pollock's highly theatrical dance-like engagement as he encircled his canvases throwing down paint. Others take the vision of the masculine, heroicized action painter as a point of departure for critique or emulation. Klein's similarly unusual and spectacular performances that created the Anthropometry paintings have also inspired a range of responses for contemporary artists exploring issues of the body, gender and creativity.
Included in the program are videos of Janine Antoni performing Loving Care in which she mops the gallery floor with her dye-soaked hair, Karen Finley's Nursing Tape, Ron Athey's Human Printing Press segment from his Four Scenes in a Harsh Life, Damien Hirst creating one of his "spin paintings" by pouring paint onto a rotating wheel, a performance by Philadelphian Gabriel Martinez, works by Cheryl Donegan, and early pieces by Ana Mendieta, Dennis Oppenheim, Carolee Schneemann, Skip Arnold, and Paul McCarthy.
Programming in the Video Gallery is made possible by the generous support of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.