A Bigger Splash
This November, Tate Modern presented a new show, an art exhibition that aims to think over the relationship between the painting and the performance since the fifties. The show displays two different points of view about the idea of the canvas as a scenario in which to act: one gestural, the other one theatrical.
The show starts contrasting the paintings of two key artists of the period, Jackson Pollock’s Summertime and David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, which also gives the name to the exhibition. Pioneer of Abstract Impressionism, Pollock was involved with gestural painting, inspired by Surrealism and the sand painting technique of the American Indians, employing his famous dripping paint technique with the canvas placed on the floor. For him, the canvas was itself a field of action. On the other hand, Hockney represents in his artwork a real scene, a freezing moment. In this case, the painting becomes an artificial scenario, making it a theatrical experience where the viewer finds himself at the centre of the drama.
After these introductory paintings, the exhibition consists of two different parts. The first half shows the agitated relationship between performance and painting internationally, since the 1950s until the early 1980s. We see the works of artists such as Stuart Brisley, Wiktor Gutt, Cindy Sherman and Helena Almeida, as well as members of Gutai Group and the Vienna Aktionists. The second part, where each room is devoted to a single contemporary artist or group, reflects on how these experiments in performance have impacted in the forms of painting from the late 1970s to the present day. This part includes the work of artists such as Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Irwin, Ei Arakawa and Lucy McKenzie.
A Bigger Splash: Painting after performance revolves around the ways in which experiments with action, self-presentation and the theatricality of some artists have had an impact in how the following generations have understood the possibilities of painting.