Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void

For those of you unfamiliar with the IB program, over the summer between grades 11 and 12, all students are required to write a mini thesis paper, answering a question based on one of the 6 classes they’re taking. I chose art – pretty obvious – as having a 5,000 word art paper would be a pretty good practice for my Art History major in college, and decided to focus my question around the subject of post WWII art, and the war’s influence on artists of the time.

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to take a quick gallivant to Chicago to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s current featured exhibit, Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void. The entire exhibit focused on how World War II effected the techniques and themes of artists from nations directly involved in the war, and the permanent effect that this had on how art was perceived. After the war, any rules as to what art ‘should’ or ‘has’ to be flew out the window, and artists were able to explore the entirety of what ‘art’ had to offer them.

The exhibit was fabulous – excellently curated and all relevant to the topic at hand. I got to see pieces by some of my favourite artists (Yves Klein’s fire painting were particularly exciting for me) as well as explore new artists that I had never heard of before. Below are some pieces by some of the artists that I most enjoyed, found most interesting, or had questions about.

Niki de Saint Phalle

urlOh, how I love a good 20th century female artist. I had never really heard of Saint Phalle (kill me, I know), but the two pieces that were on display at MoCA instantly had me captivated. In both pieces, the artist used a .22 caliber rifle to shoot packets of paint, quite literally combining the destructive technology of war and the new, non-linear quality of art at the time. The first piece(Shooting Painting American Embassy, 1961), pictured above left, was actually placed at the American Embassy in Paris, where visitors were allowed to shoot to create the finished piece. The second piece (Fragment de l’Hommage au Fracteur Cheval, 1961) is my personal favourite, as it combines the rugged elements of war (there’s some chicken wire applied to the piece, as well as the fact that the painting was done via rifle) with the feminine quality of the pastel and neon colour palette used.  Both pieces appear far more modern than they are, which I adore.

Niki de Saint Phalle (3)(Niki de Saint Phalle being a total badass)

Kazuo Shiraga

url-1I recently saw the Gutai exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, so I was pretty familiar with the Japanese movement when I saw a few of the pieces at the MoCA. I was particularly drawn to the pieces of Kazuo Shiraga – particularly because of his methods of painting. Shiraga was extremely experimental not only in his style of painting, but also in the application of paint itself – often using his hands and feet, throwing glass bottles of paint at the canvas, and using remote control toy cars to create his pieces.

Overall, it was an excellent exhibition, and I highly recommend you check it out before its unfortunate closing on June 2!

xo, Syd

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