Art in the Present Tense: The Kinetic Painting of Bill Ham

In this video, Bill Ham discusses his “kinetic paintings,” which involve the unique use of a transparent overhead projector deployed as a tool for direct spontaneous abstract painting in improvised studio sessions. Ham began his art of projected imagery in 1964, sharing his earliest experiments with the artists and musicians of the Pine Street neighborhood, where he settled after moving to San Francisco in the early 1960s. He is widely heralded as the originator of the psychedelic light show in the United States, first performed at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1965. His work was always conceived of as part of a live theatrical performance that included music and dance. It required simultaneous composition, execution, and viewing. Ham describes his practice as “the ultimate in participatory art,” with spaces blanketed in swirling, pulsing colored light projections that seek to unite the viewer and the work in an integrated, harmonious experience.

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