In the exhibition “Slip Zone: A New Look at Post-War Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia” at the Dallas Museum of Art, a 1947 Jackson Pollock painting cathedral Hanging near a picture documenting Gutai artist Kazu Shiraga’s drawing with his feet at the “Second Gutai Art Gallery” in Tokyo in October 1956. He stands shirtless with his pants rolled up, apparently dancing on the canvas under his feet. Driven by the feeling of physical conflict. Compare this photo with the familiar photos by Hans Namuth that show Bullock reclining on a canvas scattered with paint on his studio floor. Despite the visual similarity of Gutai’s paintings and their homage to Pollock’s work, these images illustrate some fundamental differences in the artists’ approaches to process and tradition. Pollock sits on the canvas, retaining her pictorial frame, working more around the painting than acting on it. Shiraga literally uses the surface of the canvas itself as a site for unblocked rendering, making Bullock appear graphically and set in contrast.
Such clarifications about long-standing assumptions about the primacy and supremacy of American (white) and European abstract art within global modernism are repeated throughout the “Slip Zone”, which brings together works not only from Gutai but also from Mono Ha in Japan, Dansaekhwa in Korea, and Neoconcretism in Brazil. The artists behind these movements emerged from distinct cultural contexts whose traditions and concerns tempered their work, and in turn contributed to an international conversation about the untapped possibilities of material, form, and abstraction. Rather than presenting post-war modernity as a European-American export to other parts of the world, “Slip Zone” highlights the heterogeneous, heterogeneous artistic pollination that occurred during this period, both globally and across racial divisions within the United States.
The work of such essential American artists as Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, and Mark Rothko is already included in the “slide zone,” but the presentation provides more fleeting context than enshrines their positions, effectively showing how many artists contributed to the modernist visual in explicit patterns of reference points The backgrounds are vastly different. For example, Rothko’s uncharacteristically vivid painting accompanies a Frankenthaler work dominated by similar vermilion colors, resonating visually on the gallery floor in the early latex poured Linda Bengalis titled Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler)1969. Psychedelic swirls of casting Bengalis are themselves refracted nearby in a 1965 oil painting by Gutai Shuzo Shimamoto Untitled – vortexwhich shows the influence of traditional Japanese paper marbling techniques such as sominagashi In overlapping rings of color resemble an amoeba.
Arrayed with tapered stripes of blue pigment fading rhythmically like an ink stamp that loses, Korean artist Lee Yufan, 1978 from point It combines repetitive minimalist techniques with traditional Japanese materials such as NikawaGlue for animal skin used in silk painting. The prioritization of Ufan’s basic material properties as much as Western notions of artistic expression appear most dramatically in his sculpture. relatum (1968/1969/2011), in which the artist drops a stone on a pane of glass and leaves it for display on the broken surface, wielded with a violent brilliance amidst a stillness. Such philosophical explorations of the body and process-based attempts at “not making” were the hallmark of Mono-ha (or “School of Things”), a movement spearheaded by Yufan and the Japanese artist Nobuo Seiken.
As part of its ambitious reassessment of a modernist history marred by hierarchies and segregation, Slip Zone also highlights the unacknowledged contributions of black American artists working in various forms of postwar abstraction, including color field painting and Minimalism. The exhibition takes its title from a 1971 painting by Jack Whitten of a striped and grooved surface that the artist created using tools such as combs and pistons. Hanging on top of a wall in the central exhibition hall, a sheet (1970)—One of Sam Gilliam’s signature unrolled canvases—impressively expands its painted folds, lending the space a church-like quality. Elsewhere, the victorious plaques are extensive Marcia H Travels by Frank Bowling and Intarsia By Ed Clark (both 1970) They face each other across a gallery, each emitting a distinct, delicate aura through the layers of color bleed—bowling soft and veil-like, Clark’s heavily lined and horizontal. In between, the attractive sculpting of molded polyester Untitled (lens equivalent)1978, by California light and space artist Fred Eversley, as an energetic, vivid prism with a soft blue sheen.
Few artists exemplify the true cultural heritage of post-war abstraction as well as Senga Ningudi, who spent a year studying jotai at Waseda University in Tokyo before returning to the United States to participate in the black avant-garde movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Using vinyl bags of vividly colored water to explore the weight and movement of fluids, Ningudi’s early work water composition (1969-70 / 2019) reveals the direct influence of Gutai Sadamasa Motonaga’s 1956 installation work (water), where sheets of vinyl filled with dyed water are hung between trees. Ningudi’s building also anticipates the formal interests of her later work, most famously in the “RSVP” series (1975-1977), which involves tying pantyhose together and pinned to walls and sanded. Drawing compelling and subtle connections like these, Slip Zone insists on a revised history of abstraction that acknowledges and celebrates the dynamic, multi-directional cultural exchange that these artworks attest to.