A Bigger Splash, Tate Modern

-This exhibition is now closed-

A Bigger Splash at the Tate Modern explores the relationship between painting and performance art from the 1950s to the present day.

The exhibition opens with two influential works by Jackson Pollock (Summertime: Number 9A) and David Hockney (A Bigger Splash), displayed alongside Hans Namuth’s film of Pollock at work and Jack Hazan’s film about Hockney (also entitled A Bigger Splash). This first part of the show introduces the idea that audiovisual recording and adaptation transforms painting into a self-conscious, performance-based medium; the recording of Pollock’s process turns the application of paint into an artistic event in itself, while Hazan’s film uses Hockney’s finished painting as a stylised fantasy backdrop for his characters to act out.

The second section of the exhibition takes a look at the integration of performance and painting in the 1960s-1980s. Pollock and Hockney rose to fame after allowing their unique painting processes to appear on film, and many of the artists that followed also used video to record their work. Some of the results smack of novelty for its own sake, for example Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Pictures created by shooting a gun at bags of paint embedded in canvas, but other attempts to integrate painting with audiovisual or photographic recording have more clout, such as the transgressive and controversial works of the Viennese Actionists, or Valerie Export and Urs Lüthi’s pieces criticising gender stereotypes.

The final section of the exhibition, dedicated to contemporary art, is largely concerned with the artistic transformation of spaces. Edward Krasinski’s installation Untitled, in which a strip of blue tape runs along the walls and a series of mirrors, turns the viewer into a performer in an artwork which cannot be delineated from the gallery space. Karen Kilimnik’s installation Swan Lake, complete with theatrical fog and music, resembles a stage set after a performance of the famous ballet and evokes a nostalgic mood similar to that of Hockney’s A Bigger Splash; this is also a romantic and seemingly inviting environment which, on second look, is actually empty and inaccessible.

The exhibition has received mixed reviews since opening earlier this month, but it succeeds in drawing a common thread through a diverse variety of works, showing the important influence of audiovisual and photographic recording on contemporary art.

The exhibition runs until 1 April.

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