Continue playing

(Time remaining: )

Play from beginning

Play from beginning

Continue playing "{{ controller.videos[controller.getVideo(controller.currentVideo)].segmentParentTitle}}"

{{controller.videos[controller.getVideo(controller.currentVideo)].title}} has ended.

{{ currentTime | date:'HH:mm:ss':'+0000' }} / {{ totalTime | date:'HH:mm:ss':'+0000' }} {{ currentTime | date:'mm:ss':'+0000' }} / {{ totalTime | date:'mm:ss':'+0000' }} {{cue.title}}
Add to WatchlistRemove from Watchlist
Add to watchlist
Remove from watchlist

Video unavailable

To AbstractAmy Sillman

June 12, 2024

Marking, whittling, struggling, scumbling, contradicting, and abstracting, artist Amy Sillman wrestles with the history and materiality of painting, reinvigorating the medium with new references and perspectives. In her Brooklyn studio, the artist works improvisationally using various nontraditional and ad-hoc tools to scrape, wipe, and wash off the paint she applies to the canvas in an ongoing process of editing and revision. 

Graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 1979, Sillman sought to apply the experimental and improvisational practices of the 1970s and 1980s New York City art scene to the realm of contemporary painting. Her broad span of artistic references extends to her peers working outside of the discipline such as Kurt Kren, the Kipper Kids, and Ishmael Houston-Jones; however her work also references the spirit of formal playfulness in Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, and Maria Lassing. This spirit is something Sillman identifies in her other influences like the gestural painters of The New York School, however the artist believes that this playfulness from these works had become lost as they became idealized commodities. “It was an anti-heroic position that had to be remade in painting,” Sillman says. “I’m rebuilding something from a much more scrappy and casual and weird position.”

In her practice, Sillman identifies two distinct modes of making, she says “I make these paintings that are a million layers that you can only see the top of and then I make these long horizontal drawing and printmaking sequences.” In her 2023 exhibition at Thomas Dane Gallery in Naples, Italy, the artist brings these two modes of production together in Temporary Object (2023), a series of 41 photographs printed on aluminum plates that document the process of creating a single painting. “You go to trouble, then you get out of trouble, then you get back in trouble,” says the artist of her process. “So trouble, or not trouble, getting to it and getting away from it, and getting from one trouble to the other trouble is the unit.” 

Though Sillman is a celebrated writer, with her essays compiled in publications like Amy Sillman: Faux Pas (2020), her painting, drawing, and printmaking practices cannot be fully understood through language. “This is a non-linguistic activity that, you know, on some level is foiled by language,” says the artist. “So, to answer these questions is an impossibility.”

More information and credits


Director: Ian Forster. Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Ian Forster. Editor: Misha Spivack. Camera: Jarred Alterman, Anne Misselwitz, Mattia Ramberti, Luigi Scaglione. Sound: Pasquin Mariani. Colorist. Max Blecker. Sound mix: Collin Blendell. Archival Producer: Leah Ford. Music: Joel Pickard. Assistant Editor: Michelle Hanks. Associate Producer: Andrea Chung. Assistant Curator: Jurrell Lewis. Research Assistant: Carina Martinez.

Artwork and Archival Images Courtesy: Amy Sillman; Capitain Petzel; Gladstone Gallery; Thomas Dane Gallery; 27th São Paulo Bienal; 59th Venice Biennale; AFTER 8 BOOKS; Camden Arts Centre; CCS BARD; Four Walls Gallery, Brooklyn; Portikus. Special Thanks: Eema. 

Additional Artwork and Archival Images: © Ida Applebroog. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth; Louise Bourgeois © 2024 The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; © 2024 Carolee Schneemann Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York; © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth; Ishmael Houston-Jones and Fred Holland; © Joan Jonas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery; The Kipper Kids filmed by Tom Sewell. Courtesy The Sewell Archive; © Kurt Kren. Courtesy sixpackfilm; © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, Ota Fine Arts, and Victoria Miro; Maria Lassnig © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildrecht, Vienna; © Elizabeth Murray. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery and Colby College Museum of Art; The Ordinaires filmed by Robin Schanzenbach; SVA Archives / Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. Visual Arts Foundation. 

Extended Play is presented by the Marina Kellen French Foundation, with support from Lauren and Tim Schrager, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Every Page Foundation, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, the Henry Nias Foundation, and individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

Translate this video

Through the Art21 Translation Project, multilingual audiences from around the globe can contribute translations, making Art21 films more accessible worldwide. Translate this video now.


Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Amy Sillman

Amy Sillman was born in Detroit, MI in 1955 and is currently based in New York City, NY. The artist received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1979, and later her MFA from Bard College in 1995. In her decades-long career, Sillman has developed a practice that defies neat categorization as she builds tensions between binaries, mediums, histories, and styles. Encompassing painting, drawing, printmaking, animation, zine-making, and writing, the artist both borrows from and complicates art historical periods and schools. Known for her process-based paintings that move ambivalently between figuration and abstraction, the artist approaches the medium as an endeavor that is simultaneously intuitive and formal, bodily and thought-based, material and conceptual. 

“You’re editing with your body, you’re making these decisions to like spill something out, cut it off, put it over there, move it around. And the next thing depends on the thing before it.”

Amy Sillman