Energetic art on display in Norman 

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A local artist responds to Jackson Pollock and his contemporaries with an exhibition of abstract expressionism at Mainsite Contemporary Art in Norman.

Re-Action Painting is the latest project of artist and attorney Don Holladay. His prior work graced the walls of Firehouse Art Center, Paseo Originals Gallery (now Kasum Contemporary Fine Art) and Leslie Powell Gallery.

The exhibition is Holladay’s take on the action painting movement of the 1950s. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning exemplify the genre, using the subconscious and spontaneity to coat their canvas.

“Their goal was to convey high energy,” Holladay said. “The painter was actually interacting with the canvas.”

This interaction involved nontraditional methods and tools to create their works. Standing over the canvas, dripping, sloshing and slinging mediums such as house paint, emphasizing movement, were tactics encouraged by the genre.

Thinking, however, was not. Holladay finds this liberating.

“When I work, I do not begin with a preconceived image of the final product,” Holladay said. “I go wherever emotion or the painting takes me.”
By allowing one stroke to lead to the next, marks Holladay once thought as accidents become a doorway taking the work into a new direction.

The exhibition consists of 35 pieces on paper and canvas ranging in size from 6 inches by 10 inches to 5 feet by 7 feet. Both abstracts and figurative works are represented. The vast majority were created in the last two years during Holladay’s peak interest in action painting.

Holladay’s art is not defined only by strokes and the final product but also his choice of materials.

“I use a wide variety of tools,” he said. “I prefer the most expensive oils and ink, but — it’s almost embarrassing to say — I use cheap tools.” Ice scrapers and throwaway brushes are often found by Holladay’s side, along with other cheap utensils he purchases at hardware stores. These tools offer him peace of mind while working.

“I love throwaway brushes,” he said. “I don’t worry about hurting cheap tools. I often cut most of the hair off a brush, down to the stump. I couldn’t do this with expensive brushes.”

Many of his works incorporate string, twine and burlap affixed to their surfaces. The idea of this interaction with the canvas not only serves him as artistic inspiration but also for the experience of the viewer.

“When I use nontraditional materials like a burlap sack, I want to infuse them into the painting,” Holladay said. “I don’t want the viewer to realize it’s there until they get very close to the painting.”

Holladay reiterated that the exhibition, no matter the materials, follows a single idea. “The one connecting theme is trying to convey energy in each and every piece,” he said. Re-Action Painting runs through Jan. 10 with an artist talk and closing reception scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9 at Mainsite Contemporary Art, 122 E. Main St., in Norman.

Print headline: Reactionary art, A local artist conveys energy through work that is a response to the action movement of the ’50s.


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