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MARIA LASSNIG. Ways of Being at the Albertina Museum

Category: Exhibition 20. September 2019

On September 8th, Maria Lassnig, regarded as Austria’s most eminent female painter, would have celebrated her 100th birthday. On the occasion the Albertina shows a comprehensive retrospective, in cooperation with the Stedlijk Museum Amsterdam.

A large exhibition about Maria Lassnig has already been held in the Albertina in 2017, including drawings and watercolors. The Albertina possesses 64 paintings and more than 200 works on paper by the artist. Among its 250 items, the exhibition in Amsterdam included sculptures, sketches, collages and also animation films. The animation films will be shown in Vienna’s Filmmuseum cinema on the 17th and 24th of November and on the 1st of December 2019.

The exhibition in Vienna focuses on the painterly work. There are 78 pictures on display in the show, in chronological order they illustrate the multifaceted artistic universe of Lassnig’s painting. 21 of them are from the Albertina’s inventory, 28 from the Lassnig foundation and the rest from 22 different lenders. Curator Antonia Hoerschelmann completed the exhibition with some paintings that were not part of the Amsterdam exhibition. For example, the large formated „Mother and Daughter“ from the Hans Schmid collection has not been shown in public for decades, and now it is on display in the Albertina.

The exhibition begins with a self portrait from 1945, and it ends with the poignant „Marked by Death“ from 2011, one of the last paintings completed by the artist. The visitor can trace the beginnings of Lassnig’s Body Awareness Art by examples from the 1950ies, virtually all of the key subjects in her art are represented in the exhibition: sexuality, woman’s role in society, the fight for self-determination, self-awareness, her mother.

Besides the different periods of her artistic work, the turning points in her life and the changing places of residence also come to light in the exhibition. Maria Lassnig was born on the 8th of September 1919 in Kappel am Krappfeld, Carinthia. From 1941 she studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, in Wilhelm Dachauer‘s master class. She had to leave the class because of her „degenerate“ (according to Nazi ideology) paintings in 1943. She eventually completed her studies in the classes of Ferdinand Andri and Herbert Boeckl. She had her first solo exhibition in 1948 in Klagenfurt, Carinthia.
In Vienna she was part of Monsignore Otto Mauer’s group. In 1951 and 1952 she traveled to Paris with Arnulf Rainer where she met André Breton, Yves Klein, Paul Celan and other artists and was influenced by Tachism and Informalism. In this period narrative elements increasingly became present in her body awareness paintings.

In her – as she described it – „two-stage“ painting process she begins with the experience of her body and then she also reacts to global problems and political events she is concerned with. In the painting „Atomic Mothers“ of 1984, she shows two women with atomic bombs on their laps.

In 1968 she moved to New York where she gained recognition with her animation films. She remained there until she was appointed as a professor to the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna in 1980. Together with VALIE EXPORT, she represented Austria at the Venice Biennale in 1980. In 1982 and 1997 she was invited to documenta in Kassel. In 1988 Maria Lassnig was awarded the Great Austrian State Prize, several other awards followed, among others the Golden Lion for her lifetime achievement at the Biennale in 2013.

Every period in her work has an aesthetic of its own, but one of the invariables is Lassnig as her own model, her face is present is many of her pictures. She molds her face in many different ways, merging it with machines or even with a cheese grater. Lassnig oscillates between figuration and fantasy, animals impersonate feelings, and human body parts become redoubled or overemphasized.

As her age advanced, painting large formats became increasingly difficult for Maria Lassnig, however even in the last years of her life she kept producing exceptional paintings. (written by Cem Angeli)

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