BRATTLEBORO >> The point is the process as three noteworthy up-and-coming New York 'action painters' converge at 118 Elliot on Saturday at 6 p.m. for "This is Happening NOW' – an evening of live action painting, music and video performance where what happens that evening is the art. The event is free. Sandwiches and drinks will be served.
Inspired by 'The Happenings' of the late 1950s and early '60s in New York City where 'viewers' not only 'saw' work, but engaged physically and became part of the process, local artist and curator Lisa Mendelsund invited the three painters to come to Brattleboro to recreate the experience for area audiences. Mendelsund's first show at 118 Elliot was "Big Stiches, Rough Cuts, Nothing Nice" which showcased the work of 16 local female painters.
Taj Campman, Hunter Cuming-Shaw, and Tim Fite will paint on opposing walls, in real time without a script (or a net) in three different styles of action painting: Resistance Painting which will be a Guernica size mural unfolding hypnotically in front of us. Sequence Painting, which will span a room in sequentially taped panels and be ultimately stripped to reveal a grid and 'Boxing Painting' in the vein of Ushio Shinohara, the painter featured in the award winning documentary "Cutie and The Boxer ", where paint will be impaled into the canvas using strikes and kicks. Each artist will use music to paint to. After the work is done there will be a Q&A.
Tim Fite-Sullivan is a Brooklyn based hip-hop performer and creator of the RESIST painting series. He tours wide and far with his incendiary mix of imagery and music.
Taj Campman is a Brooklyn-based music producer whose most recent art show was "Victorian Pulp" a mash-up of Durer-esque oils, graffiti and collaged strips. His parents Ric and Barbara Campman founded the River Gallery School of Art in Brattleboro.
Hunter Cuming-Shaw is a black belt in Karate who currently resides in Singapore and will study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London this fall.
"The Happenings were a series of art events that became a new way of experiencing art where the lines blurred between creators and viewers" said Mendelsund. "'This is Happening Now' puts these three young, high energy artists together in one blank space to spark a creative process that will involve and excite the senses of everybody there."
The term "The Happenings" was coined by Allan Kaprow, a founder of the Fluxus group, in his 1959 essay "The Legacy of Jackson Pollock." He envisioned a new movement in art as embodied by Pollock, a kind of unscripted theater that allows participants to experiment with movement, spoken text and music.
"After the atomic bomb, after the McCarthy trials, we were a society aching for what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and Pollock provided that in paintings which were swept up by the museums before their paint had dried," Mendelsund said.
'The Happenings' took the immediacy of Pollack's action painting and extended it into collaborative inter-disciplinary theater. This was not so much a style as a moral stand that prized incident over curation, valued improvisation over script, with no frames, no exposition, no supplemental text -- and no price tag.
'The Happenings' gained momentum under the stewardship of Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. By the early 1960s word of The Happenings had spread and the likes of Claus Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Grace Zabriske, Yoko Ono and Wolf Kahn had joined the ranks.
"In an election year swirling with concerns about sincerity and accountability," Mendelsund said. "it felt like the right time to cauterize some of the internet driven hysteria with a bracing dose of what-you-see-is-what-you-get by doing a 'Happening' right here in Brattleboro."
For more information about the artists and the performance, visit 118Elliot.com.