The exhibition deepens and sharpens the definition of two central aspects present in the postwar development of abstract painting: painting as a processual, self-reflecting medium as well as the expansion of painting into the domain where it references objects and space and which accompanied the dissolution of the picture. Almost two hundred works testify to painting in the throes of a crisis in respect of traditional notions of the art form, the conception of picture-making, and the attempt to overcome them. Starting out from positions that were already historical at the time, an arc is drawn into the present and the impressivein terms of both quantity and qualityAustrian contribution to these developments is presented.
The tendencycentral to modernityof practitioners to reflect on the medium was already the focus of a presentation of the Daimler collection earlier this year in Pictures about Pictures. In Painting: Process and Expansion this undergoes a re-interpretation and re-weighting. The foreground here is taken up by the reduction to the fundamental processes of painting on the one hand and their expansion and dissolution in sculptural and/or spatially-linked strategies of painting on the other.
The presentation represents the continuation of one of the MUMOK
programme foci which is aimed at reinvigorating and up-dating the painting discourse. In autumn of this year this focus will be rounded off with the exhibition Hyper Real which will be a comprehensive presentation of the USA-based trend in painting that is linked to the realist depictions.
The Self-Presentation of Painting
One of the various experiments and strategies of processual painting consisted in developing pictorial designs from the fundamental characteristics and interactions of colours instead of deriving them from concepts of narration and composition. Creatively-guided self-presentation of painting is generated in this context by means of painting on and over, by palette knife in-filling, dripping, spraying, dipping, pouring etc. Here the consistency of the pigment and its relation to gravity and the characteristics of the picture support become visible. In their purest and most reduced form the results of processes of this nature are the monochromes by Yves Klein or the pattern-like, all-over structures to be found in Jackson Pollocks Drip Paintings. The gestural and processual painting of art informel prepared the way but became increasingly academic and thus a target for antagonism for those painters who were revolutionaries. In depicting their principles there was also a belief that a higher truth could be expressed in painting in/of itself and a doubt in the possibility of originality by autonomous individual artists. In the 1950s and 1960s, in what can be considered the final acts, radical positions and inventions, these historical approaches and techniques have proved to have potential for succeeding generations.
The section of the exhibition dedicated to processual painting starts out from Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein, Morris Louis, Arnulf Rainer, Hermann Nitsch and Max Weiler and goes on to display a dense spectrum of differing, individual variants of this phenomena up to the present day including, amongst others, the positions represented by Joseph Marioni, David Reed and Bernard Frize. In a narrower sense the selection is restricted to picture-related painting and indicates numerous overlappings with other, related, contemporary approaches as can be most clearly seen in material or structural pictures. In the contemporaneous part, loans from Austrian artists such as Erwin Bohatsch, Herbert Brandl, Jakob Gasteiger, Hubert Scheibl, Thomas Reinhold, Andreas Reiter Raabe or Walter Vopava supplement the exhibition. They document the breadth and intensity of the discourse in Austrian art.
Liberation of the Pictorial Surface
The second part of the exhibition follows the incipient redefinition of picture-making and painting per se through the inclusion of real objects and by bonding them to architectural space and installations. Various forms of relating to reality and space were to be seen in Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Arte Povera, Minimal Art, and the geometric abstractionism of former Eastern bloc, all of which were mobilized against picture-fixated painting. While in North America and Western Europe around 1960 reality was integrated into works in the form of quotation and in ways that involved three-dimensional space, in the Eastern European countries it was the pictures geometrical extension into architectural space that was reflected in the art that followed the post-Stalinist political liberalization during the so-called gentle dictatorships. The criticism levelled at the historical definitions of picture-making and composition led to a redefinition of painting and picture-making in relation to the viewer. Instead of the viewer being confronted with the work, an effort was made to integrate the viewer into the work. This radical realignment of painting in the 1960s and 1970s became the historical foundations for those artists who, from the late 1980s, after the end of neo-figurativism and narrative New Painting, went on to create modern, up-to date forms of painting. The process created new connections between pictures and everyday objects which expanded both the definition and techniques of painting.
The spectrum of the expansive works on show runs from historical positions of the 1960s and 1970sincluding Pino Pascali, Daniel Spoerri, Otto Mühl, Oswald Oberhuber, Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Frank Stella, Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Karel Malich, and Henryk Stazewskiright up to the most recent past and on into the present with such representatives as Imi Knöbel, Heinrich Dunst, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Adrian Schiess, Jessica Stockholder, Bertrand Lavier, Michael Kienzer, Christian Hutzinger, Klaus Dieter Zimmer, John Armleder, Jirí Kovanda, Rosemarie Trockel, and Heimo Zobernig.