“Who is the first person you think about?” asks Elizabeth Weinstein, curator for the Louisiana Art & Science Museum.
The whirl of movement and paint of Jackson Pollock come to mind.
“That’s right,” Weinstein continues. “Jackson Pollock was the first action artist — the first action painter — where the process was as important, if not more, than the painting.”
The museum’s latest show, “Art in Action: Inflate. Draw. Pour.” features artists in the vein of Pollock, artists whose processes also include the viewer.
“We’re letting the public come in and watch while the balloon sculpture goes up,” Weinstein says.
That’s the “Inflate” part of the show, where sculptor Jason Hackenwerth is tying more than 3,000 orange, red and clear balloons together to create a piece he’s titled “Eye of the Storm.”
The exhibit also highlights work by New Orleans artist Heather Hansen, whose kinetic drawings represent the “Draw.” “The “Pour” part belongs to New York painter Holton Rower’s multi-layered “pour paintings.”
The museum will loop its own video of Hackenwerth, joined by LSU School of Art graduate students, creating the “Eye of the Storm” and a balloon dome called “The Arrival” for the museum’s lobby.
“I design all of my pieces specifically for the location,” Hackenwerth says.
While the storm sculpture refers to the state’s tropical environment, “The Arrival” resembles Louisiana’s Old State Capitol’s stained glass dome.
“I’ll be inserting transparent balloons in between the colors,” Hackenwerth says. “When the light shines through this dome, it’s going to look like stained glass.
“I received my degree in painting, but I started working with balloons to engage more people,” he says. “Balloons are an affordable, colorful and amiable form of art. People are familiar with it, and they don’t have to be afraid of it.”
Though Hansen and Rower aren’t creating their work in the museum’s main galleries, looped videos show how they craft their art.
In Hansen’s case, it’s a video that gained worldwide viral attention on YouTube.
“Emptied Gestures” plays in the upstairs gallery. She’s also working on another video and will demonstrate her method in a museum program on Nov. 7.
Hansen is a professional dancer who incorporates her movements into the method she calls “kinetic drawing,” or drawing with the body. Her process is inspired by a form of Japanese dance theater called butoh, which brings together a mix of techniques, activities and motivations for dance and movement.
Hansen started by sketching while listening to music. She saw the process as dancing with her hands, then segued to bigger pictures after playing on the beach with her son.
“I was drawing in the sand with my toes, and I realized I should go bigger and draw with my whole body,” Hansen says from her New Orleans home, which includes the studio where “Emptied Gestures” was filmed.
That’s where she created six 111-by-111-inch drawings in her “Harmonic Series, 2014” for “Art in Action,” by placing an unstretched canvas on the floor, and moving with a stick of charcoal in each hand.
Each drawing in the series represents an element — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur.
“I thought the elements would be a great way to bring together art and science for the Louisiana Art & Science Museum,” Hansen says.
Rower’s works represent yet another action. A video of his process plays downstairs among his finished works, showing Rower as he pours some 50 gallons of paint in hundreds of colors, one cup at a time, onto a single piece of plywood. The paint expands into thick, kaleidoscopic shapes.
Some might compare his work to Pollock’s, but Rower’s is more premeditative.
“The name ‘pour painting’ links his work to the fluid ‘stain paintings’ of Morris Lewis and Helen Frankenthaler,” the museum’s gallery label states. “Rower has staged dynamic demonstrations … at a special event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dior Vernis. Held in 2012 at The Hole in New York where his pour paintings were on view ... and featured paint colors to match Dior’s nail enamels.”