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Explosion! Painting as Action

Look at the picture where the artist Saburo Murakami comes crashing through the stretched sheets of paper with his arm raised high and his gaze riveted to the floor. This is a momentary work, documented nearly six decades ago, when the Japanese artist group Gutai turned painting into action. In Moderna Museet’s major summer exhibition, he is one of nearly 50 featured artists who have attacked the fundamentals of painting in one way or another.


In the wake of the disasters of the Second World War, there was only one way forward: to start anew. The canvas was a blank, where anything could happen. Artists dripped and splashed, threw, shot and poured paint. Things were left to chance, painting stepped out from the canvas, into the room and into time, where the viewer was activated as a co-creator. Explosion encompasses an array of approaches – the borderland between painting and performance covers the whole range from playful experiments to aggressive risktaking. Here we have several artists who disperse the myths surrounding the exalted masterpiece. The creative act in itself is deemed just as important as the resulting painting.


In the Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander’s white room in the exhibition, something strange is going on. The air is filled with multicoloured silk papers in constant motion, like an endless rain of flowering confetti. Several fans powers this work, which is called Secondary Stories. This is a different story, one that is neither painting nor conceptualism, but both. There are several examples in history of this “bothness” – in how the Gutai group takes the performative and experimental aspect to the limits, how the Vienna actionists develop painting towards ritual and religion so as to lose control and thereby attain catharsis, or how the Fluxus group uses ordinariness to practically demystify art. The entire spectrum is covered, from the post-war era to the present day, as we discern a rise in interest in performance art and its roots.


The exhibition Explosion is a multifaceted reflection on the phenomenon of painting as action, where some aspects of history take on a new meaning. Magnus af Petersens, curator at Moderna Museet specialising in international art from 1965 to the present, has organised the exhibition with great knowledge and a discerning eye, from the initial concept to the explosion of colour and action that will greet the Foreword visitors to Moderna Museet this summer. He has been supported by Matilda Olof-Ors, assistant curator, whose expertise and patience have been vital to the project. We are grateful to them both, and to Catrin Lundqvist, Department of Learning, who acted as co-curator, focusing on the performative aspect – and who will organise several actions and performances in realtime on Skeppsholmen during the exhibition period.


Daniel Birnbaum, Director. Ann-Sofi Noring,  Co-Director.

Participating artists: Ignasi Aballí Christine Abdelnour Adel Abdessemed Francis Alÿs William Anastasi Janine Antoni Anastasia Ax Maja Bajevic´ John Baldessari Lynda Benglis Olle Bonniér George Brecht John Cage Tony Conrad Niki de Saint Phalle Öyvind Fahlström Ceal Floyer Simone Forti Pinot Gallizio Cai Guo-Qiang Deborah Hay Gary Hillberg Sadaharu Horio Torbjörn Johansson Akira Kanayama Allan Kaprow Yves Klein Alison Knowles Anna Koch Jutta Koether Yayoi Kusama Paul McCarthy Ana Mendieta Tracey Moffatt Sadamasa Motonaga Saburo Murakami Bruce Nauman Rivane Neuenschwander Hermann Nitsch Yoko Ono Otto Piene Jackson Pollock Robert Rauschenberg Àngels Ribé Carolee Schneemann Shozo Shimamoto Fujiko Shiraga Kazuo Shiraga Jean Tinguely Günter Uecker Eulalia Valldosera Andy Warhol Lawrence Weiner

Curated by Magnus af Petersens

2.6 2012 – 9.9 2012

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