Asphalt Expressionism: Mobile Phone Photography of NYC Pavements 14 Feb – 28 April 2023 Oriel Tessa Sidey Gallery, School of Art

Photo of concrete sprayed with colourful graffiti
Red, White and Green (Harry Heuser)

In 1958, the US American painter Allan Kaprow abandoned traditional media and called for a ‘new concrete art.’ Jackson Pollock, he argued, ‘left us at the point where we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life.’ A few years later, in 1961, sculptor and installation artist Claes Oldenburg declared: ‘I am for the art of scratchings in the asphalt,’ the ‘art of ice cream cones dropped on concrete.’

Asphalt Expressionism showcases large-scale digital prints of New York City’s scratched, streaked and splattered sidewalks – impressions of which were gathered during the curator’s monthlong return visit to the Big Apple in the autumn of 2022 – to consider contemporary mobile phone photography, the most common mode of capturing the mundane and memorable alike, in the contexts of canonical art and its histories. In particular, the exhibition relates the visual culture of those stumbled-upon public spaces to the artworld of the 1950s and 1980s, of which New York City was widely held to be the capital. Autobiographical and interactive, Asphalt Expressionism invites reflections on the relationships between life, art and the museum environment.

Asphalt Expressionism was conceived by Harry Heuser, Senior Lecturer in Art History, Aberystwyth University.

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