vienna actionism


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 ¾ 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 ¾ 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 ¾ 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.’