Abstract Critical

Painting and Performance

Below is a brief, and surely very incomplete, selection of films which suggest a relation between painting and performance, compiled because of the Tate’s A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance.

The most famous action painting film is the 1951 Hans Namuth film of Pollock. Pollock’s painting over glass was just preceded by Picasso, who did so in Paul Haesaert’s 1949  documentary. Here Max Ernst explains frottage; surrealist automatism was an important influence on the Abstract Expressionists’ action painting. Robert Rauschenberg describes his erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing. Robert Motherwell takes a relaxed approach to painting an Elegy. And studio films of Pierre Soulages, Karl Appel, Sam Francis and Gerhard Richter.

There is a film of the Japanese performance group Gutai here, and a film of a 1960 Yves Klein performance here. Where Klein used naked women to make his paintings, Niki de Saint Phalle got out her gun and William Green got on his bike. Paul McCarthy’s film 1995 Painter, which parodies Abstract Expressionism, and – offensively – mocks de Kooning’s Alzheimers is here. McCarthy’s earlier Black and White Tapes, is an even bleaker look at painting and performance. A recent film of Richard Serra reinstalling his Gutter Piece is here. And if that’s not enough monkeying around.