Rejecting established modes of representation, the works featured in the exhibition exemplify the artists’ shared quest for a new beginning in art, as in life; one that could respond to a social reality filled with potential and new technological advances in the aftermath of World War II. Through their use of destructive methods of production, be it burning, cutting or nailing, the artists challenge the notion of flatness as a condition of painting to give way to a new creative freedom by opening up the picture plane to space, light and movement.
Distinguishing the exhibition from previous surveys on this group of artists, Burning, Cutting, Nailing is focused on select monochromatic works that also address the theme in practice. The result is a thoughtfully curated exhibition of Lucio Fontana’s red and white ‘cut’ or tagli paintings as well as his metal paintings in copper and aluminum; Günther Uecker’s white nail paintings and Yves Klein’s abstract ‘fire paintings’. By focusing on these blocks of colour, the material qualities of the paintings are brought to the foreground and the dynamism of each artist’s singular practice is reinforced by the repetition of colour and technique.
Burning, Cutting, Nailing also highlights the performative aspect inherent in each artist’s practice. This is demonstrated by Fontana’s gestural cuts with a razor blade slicing through the traditions of the artistic canon, Klein’s full-scale theatre of flames burning the surface of his paintings at the testing centre of the Gaz de France and Uecker’s turn as master of optical illusion, hypnotically hammering nails to dramatise the play of light and shadow.