Whip My Hair
Mark Chamberlain
Jan 25, 2011

Neo Abstraction is all the rage, with splatters popping up from YouTube to Chelsea. If you'll give me two minutes, I think I can link together two disparate ideas. File this under snark.

Willow Smith, ten-year-old-daughter of Will, released a single last fall titled Whip My Hair. To my own credit, I only heard about this on NPR, as Terri Gross was discussing Jimmy Fallon's impersonation of Neil Young doing a cover of it with Bruce Springsteen.

Said video is a self-described metaphor for self-expression, as per other You-Tube interviews, and it's actually well produced. A young girl enters an all-white room, dips her hair in paint and "Whips it real good." The result is an Abstract Expressionist fantasy environment of the creative impulse. Lovely, but I can't help linking this to something else.

In the art world right now, post-boom and post-bust, you must know that we're in a Neo Ab Ex moment, which seems to be about anti-content and a yearning for times past. I recently looked at both Pollock, the film, and just visited the MoMA Ab Ex exhibit, and it set me thinking.

When I was in college, I was obsessed with Mid-Century art, and now much of it seems so empty and solipsistic, but let's put ourselves in their shoes. Circa 1950, this is what was happening in America: we just came out of and won WWII—a time of chaos and cacophony. Americans everywhere where obsessed with psychoanalysis. There was a reaction against conservative Eisenhower era values in all art forms, and in terms of painting, this was also the establishment of the first purely American, anti-European anti-history movement. Abstract Expressionism was pure, raw, ugly, angry-feeling, and for a moment, Jackson Pollock was the hottest thing in pictures.

So look at these film stills. Doesn't that drip pattern make for a nice interior? I think everyone with a Long Island cottage and a dry bar should have a Pollock hanging overhead, it's so me-too Modern, it just simply makes sense. But in terms of interiors, I see a lot of this now—glazes, textures, and treatments that have nothing to do with surface prettiness. I'll suggest that this could be the next "sponging treatment" for the smart set. Start with soft greys, ecru, and a fleck of black—even a simple palette will scintillate once the layers start to build up.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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