Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962 focuses on one of the most significant developments in 20th-century abstract painting: the artists literal assault on the canvas. In response to the physical and psychological destruction of World War II -- especially the results of the atomic bomb -- artists ripped, shot, cut, burned, and affixed objects to the canvas in lieu of paint. Destroy the Picture marks the first time that these artistic strategies have been considered, offering an innovative and radical new context for painting in the postwar period.
Destroy the Picture, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago
from February 16 to June 2, 2013, features more than 85 breakthrough works created between the late 1940s and the early 1960s by 26 artists from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Curated by Paul Schimmel, former Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Los Angeles, the Chicago presentation is organized by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the MCA Chicago.
As artists from war-torn countries like Italy and Japan -- including Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Kazuo Shiraga, and Shozo Shimamoto returned home to find their surroundings in ruins, they channeled that destruction into an artistic form. Artists from other parts of the world Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle from France, John Latham from the United Kingdom, Lee Bontecou and Robert Rauschenberg from the US, Otto Müehl from Austria, and Manolo Millares from Spain pursued similar approaches and strategies.
Destroy the Picture presents an opportunity to reconsider the profound repercussions of this approach to painting, from artists early experiments with translating gestures into materials, to their expansion of painting to incorporate elements of performance, assemblage, and time-based arts. In many cases, the exhibition places the work of now established artists back into the radical context in which it originally emerged.
Destroy the Picture is one of the first exhibitions of its kind to address the global nature of art production in the postwar period and how it laid the groundwork for contemporary conditions of globalization. The exhibition addresses how physical and cultural devastation allowed for the emergence of new artistic practices across diverse movements including Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Viennese Actionism, and Décollage, and the work of groups such as Gutai and Zero. Destroy the Picture reignites these dynamic artistic conversations on the walls of the museum.
Notable works include Alberto Burris Sacchi (sackcloth) and Combustioni (burning); Niki de Saint Phalles shoot pieces; affichiste (torn-poster) works by François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Mimmo Rotella, and Jacques Villeglé; Lucio Fontanas Concetti spaziali (spatial concepts); Yves Kleins Fire Paintings, made just before his death; Robert Rauschenbergs seminal Black Paintings from the early 1950s; Salvatore Scarpittas bandaged canvases; Lee Bontecous works in welded steel and canvas; and a number of works by Antoni Tàpies and Jean Fautrier.
Destroy the Picture explores a formative period in art history after World War II when a diverse range of artists began to define their practice in terms of destruction and creation. While existing studies have often obscured this lively history of international dialogue and collaboration, Destroy the Picture emphasizes the shared, international artistic sensibility that took shape in the context of devastating global change.