In the early 1960s, L.A. was taking the piss out of action painting, the solitary practice of splattering paint all over a canvas. Behind a beatnik hangout on the Sunset Strip, the glamorous French émigré Niki de Saint Phalle hung bladders of paint and King Kong masks on a wooden canvas and shot it up with pals like John Cage and Jane Fonda. She called these communal paintings tirs — French for “gunshot.”
Meanwhile, in a studio in Pasadena, Richard Jackson was emptying buckets of paint and canvases into a washing machine. He dreamed of painting with a Cessna 150 for a brush.
Today staged violence is no cakewalk. For safety reasons, the re-enactment of Saint Phalle's tirs will be invitation-only, held at an undisclosed outdoor shooting range in the foothills. “I'm open to reinterpretation,” says curator Yael Lipschutz, “but to do this with stuntmen or fake guns seems silly.”
And Armory Center curators had to promise Pasadena officials they'd keep spectators hundreds of feet away when Jackson flies and crashes a 15-foot model airplane, loaded with paint, into an enormous concrete wall in Arroyo Seco's Brookside Park. “From very early in his career,” says curator Irene Tsatsos, “Richard's been pushing the idea of how a painting can be made.” His brand of deliriousness might be up to code, but it's still your best bet for catching a whiff of neo-dada funk.

Sun., Jan. 22, 4 p.m., 2012

LA Weekly