press release


Painting the Void, 1949–1962 focuses on destruction as a mode of production in international postwar painting. In Japan, Europe, and the United States, international avant-gardes ripped, cut, and burned the traditionally two-dimensional canvas, staging a literal assault on the picture plane in reaction to the tumultuous political conditions of the time. The exhibition presents an opportunity to reconsider the profound repercussions of this approach in the realm of painting, including artists’ early experiments with the materiality of gesture, their emphasis on a rupture between two and three dimensions, and expansion of the medium to incorporate performance, time-based, and assemblage strategies. Painting the Void, 1949–1962 marks the first time that these strategies have been considered together as a coherent mode of artistic production.

Organized by MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel, the exhibition features 100 breakthrough works by 25 artists from eight countries: the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy. With several core galleries devoted solely to Lee Bontecou, Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Salvatore Scarpitta, Shozo Shimamoto, and Kazuo Shiraga, the exhibition also includes works by Gérard Deschamps, Francois Dufrene, Jean Fautrier, Adolf Frohner, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, John Latham, Robert Mallary, Gustav Metzger, Otto Muehl, Manolo Millares, Saburo Murakami, Henk Peeters, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint Phalle, Antoni T´pies, Chiyu Uemae, Jacques Villeglé, Wolf Vostell, and Michio Yoshihara. Emphasizing a shared artistic sensibility that took shape in the context of devastating global change, the exhibition reignites dynamic artistic conversations on the walls of the museum. Significant bodies of work – by the Japanese Gutai group, the American artists Bontecou, Scarpitta, and Rauschenberg, or the Italians Fontana and Burri, to name just a few – are placed in dialogue. By cutting across national and art historical boundaries, Painting the Void, 1949–1962, gives an innovative, expansive view of art-making in the aftermath of World War II.