Fundacio Joan Miro presents Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock

Fundacio Joan Miro presents Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock, on view 24 October 2012–24 February 2013.

Saburo Murakami, Tsuka (Passage), 1956. © Makiko Murakami and the former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy of Museum of Osaka University

Kazuo Shiraga painted with his feet, suspended by ropes above the canvas; Andy Warhol or his assistants urinated on the canvas; Shozo Shimamoto hurled paint-filled glass bottles at his paintings, and Niki de Saint Phalle fired a rifle at her panels that she had prepared with balloons of paint under layers of plaster. Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock features works by some 35 artists from the 1940s on.

After the Second World War, many artists wanted to start from scratch by attacking painting, which was seen to represent artistic conventionality. Explosion! takes off where modernism ends, when it was so ripe that it was on the verge of exploding. Which it did, in the form of a variety of new ways of making art. Practically every door was opened with an aggressive kick, and a new generation of artists began seeing themselves not as painters or sculptors but simply as artists, who regarded all materials and subjects as potential art. That is how the American artist and writer Allan Kaprow, the man who invented the word “happening,” described the situation in 1956 in his now legendary essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock.” Even if doors were opened to all techniques, much of the new art—happenings, performance and conceptualism—sprang from new approaches to painting. There was a development, a shift of focus from painting as an art object and as representation to the process behind the work, to the ideas that generate art, and to performative aspects.

“In Explosion! we want to explore the performative and conceptual elements in painting, and the painterly elements in conceptualism and performance,” says exhibition curator Magnus af Petersens, curator at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

The exhibition follows a theme that runs from Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, via a Cageian fascination for chance as a method for creating art, to performance and conceptual approaches. It also presents the Japanese artist group Gutai (1954–1972), which operated in radical ways in the borderland between painting and performance, anticipating many later artistic practices and strategies such as conceptualism, land art and installation. In Europe they exhibited together with artists from the nebulous artist group Zero, also featured in Explosion! with works by Günther Uecker and Otto Piene.

The geographical scope of the artists featured in Explosion! is an attempt to put the American-European art canon in a broader context. The exhibition comprises paintings, photos, videos, performance, dance and sound works, instructions and pieces that invite audience participation. Since the exhibition includes action rather than focusing exclusively on painting, performance and documentations of performance are an important part of the material that is presented, not least early footage of Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein in their performance-like painting acts, which have provoked many artistic comments, including works by Lynda Benglis and Janine Antoni, who are also featured in Explosion! Although this group exhibition is historical, it adheres to no particular style or ism, and is not confined to a geographically limited art scene; rather, it reveals the kinship between apparently unrelated artistic approaches.

Explosion! The Legacy of Jackson Pollock was produced by Moderna Museet and adapted by Fundació Joan Miró.

Opening: Tuesday 23 October, 7:30pm
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc
08038 Barcelona
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