The first book to take a transnational view of destruction in abstract painting of the postwar period. Painting the Void: 1949–1962 focuses on one of the most significant consequences of the rise of gestural abstraction in twentieth-century painting: artists’ literal assault on the picture plane. Responding to the social and political climate of the postwar period—especially the crisis of humanity resulting from the atomic bomb—international artists ripped, cut, burned, or affixed objects to the traditionally two-dimensional canvas. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue mark the first time that these strategies have been considered together as a coherent mode of artistic production, expanding the scholarship on this critical moment in history. Artists featured in the exhibition include very well-known figures as well as more obscure ones, though no less important, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Lee Bontecou, Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Salvatore Scarpitta, Antoni Tapies, and Kazuo Shiraga, as well as Jean Fautrier, Raymond Hains, John Latham, Otto Muehl, Jacques Villegle, and Shozo Shimamoto.
Paul Schimmel is the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
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