Graffiti, Rap, and Skateboarding Give Abstraction an Update

Mildner’s newest works are exuberant updates to , combining performance and painting. Influenced by the cultures of graffiti, rap, and skateboarding, she has appropriated the aesthetic and action of the street. Along with assistants Daniel Maurer and Mischa Bartos, the studio becomes an imitation of a public urban space. Skateboards are run through paint to rhythmic music that combines rap with the structures of jazz vocalizations. (Mildner has a degree in the latter.) The resultant works have the feeling of powerfully physical, life-sized calligraphy. 
Once stretched and hung on the wall, these messy paintings each take on a unique and distinct character. In certain highly colorful works, such as Labyrinth (2013) and Wurmloch (2013), tricks and twists make rhythmic sweeps in dense paint, giving the impression of a euphoric, centralized dance. In others, the slipping weight and directed track of the skateboard’s rider is more apparent, such as the monochromatic Wiener Kaiser Melange (2014). Others still seem to take a more controlled composition into consideration, spreading out strokes across the canvas, as in Yellow Calligrafie (2014) or Classic Marina (2014).
Mildner’s works recall her performative predecessors, both contemporary, such as ’s motorcycle paintings, and more historical, such as ’s “Anthropometries” and the Viennese ‘Aktion’ painters of the 1960s. The paintings in “Live Drive” each contain the traces of a specific moment in time, functioning as a record of an unseen performance and retaining its very spirit and liveliness.

—K. Sundberg

Elena Mildner | LIVE DRIVE” is on view at Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto, May 21–Jun. 13, 2015.