Pollock, Hockney, Klein, make A Bigger Splash at the Tate

Nov 14, 2012

Tate Modern's new performance and painting show has everything from paint orgies to pigs' guts

What you need to know
Tate Modern's major autumn show A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance, which opens today, focuses on the links between performance and painting since 1950.

The exhibition takes its title from David Hockney's iconic 1967 image of a Californian swimming pool and Jack Hazan's film about Hockney's life, and presents key works by over 40 artists including Yves Klein, Jackson Pollock and Cindy Sherman.

The show also features films and photographs of the working methods of 'action' painters including Niki de Saint Phalle and Viennese Actionists and presents contemporary art influenced by their experiments.

Until 1 April.

What the critics like
Tate Modern's sprawling survey of painting and performance art is fascinating, messy, and entertaining, says Richard Dorment in The Daily Telegraph. When you see film footage of Pollock "moving with the grace of a dancer" as he adds paint to a canvas, beside his "enchanting" painting, Summertime, you see why the process is central to the painting's aesthetic significance.

As the painting revival is firmly established and live performance experiences a resurgence, this is a timely and ambitious show, says Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. It also doubles as a potted history of performance, with aides-mémoire (films, drawings and photographs) that recall landmark artworks, and everything from "paint-spattered female nudity and orgiastic writhings" in sticky pigment to pigs' guts.

The show's final space, by Lucy McKenzie (above), is rather beautiful, says Adrian Searle in The Guardian. This is a set for an imaginary version of Muriel Spark's 1963 novella The Girls of Slender Means - a room, complete with trompe l'oeil radiators, and the scuffs and stains of a formerly elegant house. It's art as performance, and "it's brilliantly done."

What they don't like
This is "a fractured show with a ponderously theoretical theme and very little sense of context", says Adrian Hamilton in The Independent. The films are great fun to watch and there are plenty of ideas, "but not much cohesion".

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