In this day and age, one is completely entitled to think that, in arts, there’s absolutely nothing else left to be invented. Everything has already been done, by many too, and to the point where the only type of art left is the one of copying someone else’s work. However, in the end, there will always be emerging artists, as the time to express oneself is always now, and while they might evoke a familiar movement or reference a popular artist, their work will nevertheless be original, a personal vision transmitted through the means of an artwork. With this in mind and the intention to stay far, far away from the question of appropriation in art, we ask ourselves: how hard is it today to start a brand new art movement? Historically speaking, an art movement generally needs a guiding idea and a group of like-minded artists who have that idea in common, and to make sure it all sends an unequivocal idea, sometimes there’s the movement’s manifesto. So, to answer our question above is Excessivism, a phenomenon which took off in late 2015 as a proof that art, contrary to the popular belief among some, is not dead.
Excessive - to go beyond the usual, necessary, or proper limit or degree. To have a certain urge ”to acquire material goods beyond one’s needs and often means.”. Excessivism, as a new global art movement, tends to be a commentary on the economic materialism. With an exhibition titled Excessivist Initiative, American artist and curator Kaloust Guedel introduced it to the world, bringing along twenty other Excessivist artists to LA Art Core in October 2015. The movement draws our attention to a capitalist system where it’s all about profits at all, or better yet, minimal costs, meaning there’s absolutely no consideration of aspects like the human and the environmental ones. While one part of our world squanders precious natural resources, the other suffers on the edge of survival, neglected and in isolation, and proofs of such situation inevitably appear on a daily basis. Experimenting with materials and techniques, Excessivism uses notions of abstraction to express both the attraction and the absurdity of the money-driven lifestyle.
As the leading voice in the contemporary art movement that is Excessivism, Kaloust Guedel and his artworks rely on its criticizing principles. Through his latest endeavors, he aims to re-define physical and conceptual boundaries of painting by turning it into organic sculptures, architectural elements, installations. His objects, “bought” rather than “found”, are implemented within his multimedia works, starting a conversation which goes well beyond their surface. In his practice, Kaloust Guedel uses materials like glass, vinyl, metal and acrylic to create space-occupying paintings and installations, as forms of icons of luxury. As if caught between the aesthetics of Kitsch art as the backbone of his art’s appearance, and Pop Art as the idea to fight society by turning its own weapon against it, Kaloust Guedel set among the artists who create commentary on social and political situation with both satire and satisfaction.
Although its early adopters date back to the late twentieth century, Excessivism truly came to be in 2015. Because of its broad and rather diffused topic of exploration, the movement found itself to include some artists we know all too well, like for example - Ai Weiwei. This comes as no surprise, as the Chinese artist often highlights reckless capitalism. Other artists, like Cullen Washington Jr. or Roxy Paine, match the ideas of Excessivism through their conceptual multimedia collages and large-scale branch-like installations respectively. What’s also specific Excessivists is their, ironically, abundant use of paint, as witnessed in works by Andrew Dadson, Brett Baker, Elizabeth Sheppell and Michael Villarreal, for instance. Their paintings are basically built by thick layers of paint, emphasizing the role of the material as the carrier and the consignor of the Excessivist message, the subject and the object of its complex narratives. These are the works whose story crosses both physical and conceptual borders through its great volume, directly calling out the same problem that’s been happening in the outside world, right before our very eyes.
Yet it’s not just a saturation of paint. Think of Samvel Saghatelian, who uses portraiture, drawing, photographic collages, painting, you name it, to depict the world we live in with a grotesque, satirical, tongue-in-cheek tone. Or Zadik Zadikian, who uses gold to “stack” his sculptural elements together for a more than obvious Excessivist statement. Or Danh Vō, with his hyperrealistic bronze installations which assign new meanings to ordinary things, just because they can. Because a world led by consumerist ideals such as ours provides an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the Excessivism artists, as it is exempt of any legal, ethical, moral or aesthetic consideration.
Excessivism, as fresh as all that paint used to make its artworks, could spark a doubt among collectors who are thinking of investing in it. What makes this new art movement distinguishable, apart from the excess in aesthetics and concept? When it comes to “younger” ways of expression such as this one, collectors can rely on a historical fact that “older” movements tend to have an immense influence on their successors, both artistically and market-wise. In case of Pop art and consumerism in general, both still very popular themselves, the impact they had on artists like Jeff Koons is more than evident. Here, we’re talking about artworks that elaborate on contemporary topics in a rather ingenious manner, and almost by default, such pieces obtain substantial amounts of money on the market. Excessivism, as a new form of expression, delivers an important socio-political message, and with it, we may have just gotten the next big movement that is here to stay.
Featured images in slider: Kaloust Guedel - Excess #259 , 2014; Ai Weiwei - Stacked, 2014; Fabian Marcaccio - Paintant Stories in Stuttgart; Scott Richter - Dutch Quiz, 1996; Zhu Jinshi -Thirty Ways No. 2, 2013; Zadik Zadikian - Untitled (Three Graces), 2012. All images used for illustrative purposes only.