Action Art Movement

The term ‘Action Art’ or ‘Action Painting’ was coined initially by Harold Rosenberg, one of the most vocal proponents of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was know for his strong criticism of society, political issues and art – opposing the views of formalist critic Clement Greenberg. Action art represents unconventional techniques of applying paint to canvas including splashing, slashing, and dribbling. Action painters believed that the actual expressive act of painting held the power of the artwork, versus the finished product. Harold Rosenberg describes the action painting movement as being ‘not a picture but an event’. One of the leading artists of this art period was Jackson Pollock who used the drip and splatter technique on many of his canvasses. Many critics will agree that the attraction to Pollock’s art is energy and drama that it radiates. It is hard to tell how much of Jackson Pollock’s art is planned and how much is left to chance and flying paint. Another action painter, William Green, used a bicycle in the production of his art. He’d ride over the canvas on a bike, whereas other similar artists like those in the Gutai Group from Japan painted with their feet as they hung from ropes. Art critics have been divided about the actual worth and purpose of action art / action painting. Nevertheless action art is a noticeable subsection of Abstract Expressionism, and was an important precursor to later techniques like Spin Art and Disruptive Painting.