I giggled like a giddy seventh grader with a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day when I heard Hermann Nitsch, the forerunner of the Viennese Actionism movement, was showing in New York.
Since his earliest works in the 1960’s, Nitsch equalized the art-making process and spiritual ritual. The artist was head priest, facilitating an enlightened awareness through action. His earliest endeavors tarnished his reputation and led to complications with the police; alas, badass creativity knows no limitations.
Nitsch slaughtered lambs and rolled in their entrails, used blood as a standardized medium, and mutilated his nether regions all for the sake of art! Inspired by Abstract Expressionists — and Lucio Fontana in particular — Nitsch strayed from depicting or representing reality in exchange for penetration of the canvas and deliberate movements in time. By releasing inhibitions, he strove to experience the full spectrum of emotion and reanimate his own depth of feeling.
Religious imagery in this early work is unavoidable but focuses on arousing feeling rather than evoking immediate references. Art for Nitsch is a sensual experience. His taste for excess momentarily dissolves the instinctual guard on the subconscious, allowing primal urges to surge. By opening the floodgate, our mortal awareness heightens and we are sublimely renewed. Don’t be fooled by his gruesome displays, Nitsch is a noble dude. His gnarly performances led him out of Austria in the late 1960’s, but he returned in 1971 after the purchase of some serious real estate. His castle, known as Schloss Prinzendorf, facilitated the realization of his artistic goal, entitled Orgies Mysteries Theatre, in 1998. The six-day ceremony centered around his grotesque performances and their resultant nirvana. Since the early 2000’s, Nitsch has converted to paint for his actions, first working in oil then acrylic. The intensity of the action has taken a notable turn toward less nauseating, allowing organic conglomerations of color and light to combine with his ritualistic quest.
Mike Weiss Gallery has provided Nitsch a white-washed and thoroughly protected area to perform his first Action Painting in the United States. Nitsch has shown several times with Weiss in the last decade in both the group and solo show scenarios. The piece, entitled 60. Painting Action//60. Malaktion, began yesterday at 10:00 am EST.
Nitsch tip-toed around the gallery with six assistants, two of which have worked with him on a number of Painting Actions in Europe. Utilizing brooms, sponges, and squeegees, Nitsch cloaked the room in technicolor. Each grouping of paintings was sequentially placed on the floor, splattered, and placed back on the wall after the viscous acrylic had dried or seeped into the floor. On the wall, Nitsch added thick swirls of primary colors, gray and black with calculated spontaneity.
Today at 9:00 am EST (though the website says 10) starts Day Two of his Painting Action. There will be a slew of blank canvases, including two twenty-foot behemoths. The paintings will be exhibited starting February 19, with the opening taking place from 6-8pm.
Long live the Church of Nitsch!
Editor’s Note: The second part of Lynn Maliszewski’s report from the Nitsch event in New York will be published tomorrow.
Hermann Nitsch’s 60. Painting Action // 60. Malaktion Action Painting continues today and the exhibition of work from the performance will take place February 19 to March 19, 2011 at the Mike Weiss Gallery (520 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)
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Cool cool. Really like the expressiveness.
Did Lynn get to the second part? I was looking forward to seeing the new photos to come. And hearing how things went on the second day. Has anyone went to the actual show yet…would love to see how it looks.
It’s on the way, Jeffrey. Lynn just saw the exhibition itself and I asked her to add those thoughts to her piece before we publish it.
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