Review: Splash Painting after Performance – Tate Modern

It’s a splash or a belly-flop

It is a show that brings together particular works that are connected to painting and performance during the 1950′s and 1960′s with examples of more recent activities in the 1980′s. Much of this type of work has a strong connection to the early forms of Dada at that time called the ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ based in Zürich which like the futurists brought about the initial exploits of art, a performance in conjunction with the activity of making. Though the show does not explore the earlier developments of this field what is in the exhibition has a large influence of Dada and futurist concepts.

The first room of the show represents two well known painters who are not performers; to initialize the idea of painting that can be viewed as a performance. Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings were made on the floor so that the brush did not come into contact with the canvas. This was documented on film showing the changing perspective of what was occurring, ‘the artist at work’. The canvas was described as being a stage where an event would occur and that Pollock was using the canvas as a place to express his feelings. David Hockney painted ‘a bigger splash’ which was documented on to film, his young companions diving into a pool shown alongside a painting. His paintings were a reflection of expression conjuring the idea of illusion and artifice. The glamor of Los Angeles the relationships of theatre meandering between reality and fiction. Creating the idea of performance.

Actionism takes the whole notion of painting away from the realm of the canvas, to painting using the body, sexuality, gestural. To remove the traditional template of structured shape of masculinity that dominates painting. Using the new media of the time television and the press to record and document. Yves Klein used the bodies of naked women and a music quartet to explore the process of painting using the body. The public audience although ill at ease with the activity going on in front of them were participating in the art work itself. The whole event was recorded on film and lasted about two minutes. Viennese actionism was more provocative a living form of painting which used the walls and floor with the documentation through film which became important because the objects were the remains of what the art was about and not the focus or narrative. They were a kind of spectacle. Although many of the initial attempts to remove cultural exploitation by male artists they came under criticism with regard to the use of women in the developments of performance that was being explored.

Valley Export’s work very much being about her body and identity reacted against the use of people in these types of concepts. The art developed into addressing ideas of gender, inequalities within society, queer politics and looked at ways to address them. Showing work by Cindy Sherman, Joan Jonas, Jackie Smith etc. It was up to here that the show came as a well conceived show but I found the later rooms to be weak representing more recent work in the eighties and later that was not so interesting the art in these rooms were also by a single artist or group. I ended up just walking through the rest of the show a little bit dissappointed. These rooms represented art in general that seems to have lost its way. The poverty that has blighted artists with the commercial reality and neo libralism dirtying the water reducing the quality making things banal and senseless devoid of any feeling, reactionary or any real reason to be.

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