Flayed, torn, and punctured at MOCA

After World War II, abstract artists, in the throes of an existential crisis unleashed by the atom bomb,  began assaulting the picture plane, puncturing, stabbing, tearing, gouging, burning, and shredding their canvases. At MOCA,”Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962,” assembles a group of early experimental pieces that explore the materiality of gesture, performance, time-based, and assemblage strategies. “Some might regard it as merely an emblem of the capitalist cycles of
boom and bust that Marx identified,” Christopher Knight writes in the LA Times. “But Europe was a pile of rubble,
Japan a shocked mound of ash. America wasn’t physically touched, except
in the isolated Pacific, yet the psychic scarring went deep.” Considering all the painters who are moving into three dimensions today, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962,” curator Paul Schimmel’s last project for MOCA, seems incredibly well timed.

Manolo Millares, Hom�nculo, 1960, mixed media on canvas (sackcloth), 64 x 51 9/16 in. (162.5 x 131 cm). Collection of Contemporary Art, Fundacion “la Caixa.”

Saburo Murakami, Peeling picture, 1957, 20 7/8 x 17 15/16 in. (53 x 45.5 cm). Collection Axel Vervoordt, Belgium

Salvatore Scarpitta, Racer’s Pillow, 1963, canvas, wood, canvas straps with metal hardware, cloth, resin, and paint, 60 5/8 x 48 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Bequest of B.H. Friedman 2011.53

Otto Muehl, Untitled, 1963, sand, plaster, stockings, and emulsion on sackcloth
30 3/8 x 28 1/2 x 4 inches. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1999.

Shozo Shimamoto, Work, 1951, paint on newspaper, 16 x 12 1/2 inches. Collection Axel Vervoordt, Belgium.
Yves Klein, Untitled Fire Painting (F 27 I), 1961, burnt cardboard, 98 7/16 x 51 3/16 inches. Yves Klein Archives.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, Attese, 1958, aniline on canvas, 38 9/16 x 53 1/8 inches.
Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, Italy.

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1962, canvas, welded steel and wire construction
57 x 54 1/2 x 22 inches. Collection of Manfred Simchowitz. Photography by Brian Forrest �Lee Bontecou

Alberto Burri, Combustione Plastica, 1958, plastic, acrylic, burns on canvas, 38 9/16 x 33 1/16 inches. Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Citta di Castello

BONUS: In this 33-minute video from MOCAtv, Schimmel introduces the exhibition. Archival footage of Yves Klein and Salvatore Scarpitta, and the “crusty, biomorphic, cellular,” works of Japanese, European, and American artists influenced by the destruction wrought by WWII are also included.

Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962, ” Organized by MOCA former curator Paul Schimmel in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
MOCA, Los Angeles, CA. Through January 14, 2012. A fully illustrated, 250-page catalogue, with color reproductions of all
works, co-published with Rizzoli, will accompany the exhibition.


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