Hermann Nitsch, 12th action, 1965. gelatin silver print, 30.5 x 24cm.

“Rite of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960–1966” Hauser & Wirth

New York

“Rite of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960–1966,” curated by Hubert Klocker, was the first show to present the early years of the Vienna Actionists to a New York audience. Klocker and his academic associate, Gloria Sutton, carefully outlined the importance of these artists—including Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muehl, Günter Brus, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler—in two superbly delineated essays in the exhibition catalogue. Many of these actions, objects, and photographs are striking for the outlandish perspective they reveal, balanced between volition, naivety, endurance, and courage. In each case, they seem to move toward some ultimate veracity of art, testing the limits of how far the artist is willing to delve into primal, presumably unconscious desires. While one may question the intentions of the Actionists, one cannot deny the evidence: they have gone deeply into the body as the source of art. While the body may retain a certain representational value, it takes on an aura of ritualized expressionism, involving mutilation not simply as an illusion but as the subject of transformation, even transubstantiation in the case of Nitsch. …see the entire review in the print version of September’s Sculpture magazine.

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