Destroy the Picture

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 Tàpies, and Kazuo Shiraga, as well as Jean Fautrier, Raymond Hains, John Latham, Otto Müehl, Jacques Villeglé, and Shozo Shimamoto.

About The Author

Paul Schimmel is the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

  • Publish Date: December 04, 2012
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Art - Collections, Catalogs, Exhibitions - General
  • Publisher: Skira Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 9 x 12
  • Pages: 287
  • US Price: $65.00
  • CDN Price: $65.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-3930-8


“For art to be reborn after the profound horrors of World War II the canvas had to be tortured. Works here are slashed and burned, ripped and welded. Even the materials the artists used in these visceral works give a keen sense of what they were up to…rough but beautiful book…” ~the New York Times

“…a fascinating catalogue from Skira Rizzoli…the exhibition examines the way artists responded to the unprecedented killing and destruction of World War II by literally attacking the picture plane…charts the way artists used abstraction to respond to a post-atomic world, and in so doing offers an alternate history about post-abstract expressionism abstract art.” ~ArtInfo

"The impressive catalogue examines the productive mistreatment of painting's picture plane by a generation of artists who spearheaded movements in Europe, the United States, and Japan immediately following World War II, and it extends Schimmel's study of experimental art practices of that period in his 1998 exhibition "Out of Actions." Scholarly essays and full-page illustrations (with plenty of detail shots of modernism unraveling) coax artistic strategies and underexposed connections from the wreckage." ~Bookforum