Jackson Pollock would have been reluctant 'spiritual father' of performance art

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Jackson Pollock is one of the spiritual fathers of performance painting, according to the curator of a major  new show at Tate Modern, “but it is not what he would have wanted”.

A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, which opens today, explores how performance art influenced painting since the 1950s.

The exhibition brings together the work of 40 artists including Cindy Sherman, Yves Klein and Karen Kilimnik. 

The opening room displays Pollock’s Summertime, from the Tate’s own collection.  Curator Catherine Wood said the American painter was “hallowed” by subsequent performance painters.

“His work is seen as leading to performance in painting,” she said, who were influenced by his “action painting” technique of laying the canvases on his studio floor and dripping paints onto them.

Yet she added: “He has been used, but in a way he would not have recognised,” and much of the performance art “is not what he would have wanted”.

For Pollock it was about “self-expression, and the artist working alone” and the photographs that emerged of him at work caused him huge self-doubt about his methods, the show’s curator said.

Some painters in the exhibitions used their bodies to paint, and filmed or photographed the process, while others used their body as a canvas. Pollock influenced action painters including Niki de Saint Phalle and Pinot Gallitzio.

The exhibition shows the “attempts by artists to destroy painting or radically expand it” Ms Wood said, adding: “There’s a range of tools available that evolved through this period of experimentation. It has given artists a broader vocabulary.”

She said that Hockney, who’s A Bigger Splash gives its name to the show had even “more of a legacy. He was about painting your own world”.

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