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Introduction

What is Excessivism?

Excessivism is a contemporary art movement that aims to critique the culture of excessive consumption promoted by capitalism. Excessivists, such as Kaloust Guedel and Danh Vo, reflect our culture of consumption by using excessive amounts of materials to create their work.

Timeline

Predecessors

Beginning in the 1950s, Excessivist tendencies appeared in the works of a number of European painters including Frank Auerbach and Bram Bogart. Auerbach’s desire to perfect his work caused him to scrape all of the paint from his canvas at the end of each studio session before starting anew the next day. This process can be seen as Excessivist because of the extreme nature of how Auerbach started over and his resultingly excessive use of materials. Bogart is also a forerunner of Excessivism because he used countless layers of paint to create thick slabs of colour. This technique can still be seen in Excessivist work today.

Official Founding

The notion of Excessivism was introduced to the Los Angeles art scene in 2014 when art critic Mat Gleason curated a solo exhibition titled “Excess: The New Norm” at the Red Pipe gallery. Excessivism became a recognized movement in 2015 when artist Kaloust Guedel published the Excessivist Manifesto in Los Angeles Downtown News Weekly. In the manifesto, Guedel writes that “society is positioned to function as a reliable producer of excess, which serves as the lubricant of the capitalist engine.” Therefore, the movement is meant to serve as a reflection and critique of the excessive consumption that happens in a capitalist society.

2015 was also the year of Excessivism’s inaugural exhibition, which took place in the LA Artcore Brewery Annex gallery. The Excessivist Initiative, curated by Kaloust Guedel, featured twenty artists that demonstrated Excessivist tendencies, including Brett Baker, Danh Vo, and Zadik Zadikian. That same year, the Huffington Post published an article by art historian Shana Nys Dambrot acknowledging the movement and how it “reflects the capitalist system where excess is constantly encouraged.”

Since 2015, Excessivism has also been expressed in music and fashion. In 2017, Ji Won Choi released her Excessivism collection, and in 2019, British composer Larry Goves gave a concert in London about musical excess.

Characteristics

In the visual arts, Excessivism can be characterized most broadly by an excessive use of materials. Depending on the work and on the artist, this can mean using excessive amounts of gold, using materials in ways they are not usually used, having elements that stretch beyond the limits of the canvas, using excessive amounts of paint to sculpt in three dimensions, and/or creating works on a massive scale.

Major Contributors

Brett Baker
Jonas Etter
Kaloust Guedel
Michael Toenges
Michael Villarreal
Danh Vo
Ai Weiwei
Zadik Zadikian

Examples

Contributors

Kaloust Guedel

Kaloust Guedel is a self-taught artist and theorist who founded the Excessivist movement in 2015. He is of Armenian descent and was born in Cyprus on October 31, 1956. Guedel has lived and worked in Los Angeles, California since 1975.

Throughout his practice, Guedel’s work has explored a variety of social and political themes including abuse, war, and genocide. He has categorized his most recent work as Excessivist as it examines the relationship between capitalism and excessive consumption. Many of his Excessivist pieces feature large amounts of gold, as well as materials that stretch past the limits of the canvas. Several of these works feature multiple canvases that are mounted so that their position resembles a toppling stack. This lack of stability can be seen as a critique of laissez-faire capitalism – without a balanced distribution of materials, the structure is bound to collapse.

Kaloust Guedel - The Wall Standard
The Wall Standard
Kaloust Guedel - Excess 275
Excess 275
Kaloust Guedel - Untitled
Untitled
Kaloust Guedel - Excess 274
Excess 274

Danh Vo

Danh Vo is a contemporary artist who was born in Bà Rja, Vietnam in 1975. After Communists overtook the country, his family escaped and went on to become Danish citizens. Today, he lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Many of Vo’s works can be seen as Excessivist because they comment on how the extreme nature of Western consumerism impacts the lives of immigrants searching for a better life. One notable example of Vo’s Excessivist tendencies is his series of cardboard boxes marked with the names of well-known brands. Although the boxes are empty and crumpled, the brand names are covered in gold leaf, which on the surface seems excessive and out of place. Yet its intentional placement on empty cardboard boxes may represent how brand name items are highly valued in a capitalist society but contain no real value or substance.

Danh Vo - Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola
Danh Vo - Red Bull
Red Bull
Danh Vo - Numbers (9)
Numbers (9)
Danh Vo - Sweet Oblivion
Sweet Oblivion

Links

excessivism.com
www.huffpost.com
www.widewalls.ch
californianewswire.com