vienna actionism

Fall 2014 Editor’s Pick
Opens Tues, Sept 9, 6-8p:

RITE OF PASSAGE: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960 – 1966”
 Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler

Hauser & Wirth, 32 East 69th St., NYC

the first major New York City exhibition to explore, through rare paintings, collages, and photographs, the emergence of a critical 20th-century avant-garde movement. Various artistic developments in the second half of the 20th century have been influenced by a performative paradigm that emphasizes a move away from formal, static objects and toward more directly experiential, event-like, and sensorial gestures. In the early 1960s, the Vienna Actionists defined their radical style through a critique of painting, specifically that of European Art Informel and the Abstract Expressionism of the New York School. Under Austria’s Second Republic, Brus, Muehl, Nitsch, and Schwarzkogler sought out new possibilities for expression that could transcend the shadow of World War II. Motivated by material experimentation, they developed their art around radical body-centric performances through which authentic experiences of reality and incisive political statements could be directly and intensely perceived.


Günter Brus, Selbstbemalung/Selbstverstümmelung (Self-Painting/Self-Mutilation) and Vienna Walk, 1965

"The collage documenting Self-Painting/Self-Mutilation was presented at the Junge Generation Gallery, Vienna, the day after Brus’ first public action. The artist had walked through the centre of Vienna, painted entirely in white, with a black strip over his face and body. The dark paint was used as a symbol of mutilation. During this action Brus was arrested almost immediately by the police for being potentially disturbing to the public." - Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones, The Artist’s Body


"Rite Of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960-1966," an exhibition of paintings, collages and photographs, will be on view at Hauser & Wirth's Upper East Side location (Sept. 9-Oct. 25).

"The sexual, violent and scatological performances of the Vienna Actionists, a group of artists whose operations began in the 1960s, are among the art world’s most notorious. Members Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler were active among the ruins of the Austrian capital after World War II, tapping into their city’s deep psychoanalytic and artistic avant-garde roots—the city was also home to Sigmund Freud, Egon Schiele and the Vienna Secession artists." (~ Kerry Gaertner Gerbracht in Art in America)


Günter Brus, Self-Painting I (Total Head Painting), 1964, gelatin silver print on baryta paper, 11 3/4 by 9 inches. © Günter Brus; Courtesy Collection Hummel, Vienna and Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna. Photo Ludwig Hoffenreich.

Hermann Nitsch, Station of the Cross, 1961, dispersion on canvas, 74 3/4 by 116 7/8 inches. © ARS, New York. Photo Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich.  

Rudolf Schwarzkogler, 3rd action, 1965, black-and-white photograph on baryta paper, 8 3/4 by 7 inches. © 2014 Austrian Ludwig Foundation. Courtesy museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien, on loan from the Austrian Ludwig Foundation; courtesy private collection, Vienna.  

Herman Nitsch Aktion Eindhoven, 1983.

'After seeing a show of abstract expressionism in Vienna, Nitsch wrote that he “immediately understood all the implications of this phenomena.” He identified the expressive process of pouring paint with his ideas for the dramatic, emotionally driven, non-literary theatre , mingling Catholicism, romanticism, and Dionysian myths.'