Oswald Oberhuber - The Passions of Prince Eugen
The early works of Oswald Oberhuber, born in Meran in 1931, are classified as informal sculpture. The artist has always felt that it was too limiting to develop himself artistically as the representative of a specific style. In the late 1950s, Oberhuber was already turning against an understanding of art oriented toward styles and pursued a theory and practice of permanent change. As an artist, as a teacher and head at the University of Applied Art in Vienna, and as a director of the Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Oberhuber’s work pursues new directions and breaks conventional notions. In the early 1970s, in an Innsbruck hospital, he produced an abstract sculpture out of industrially manufactured exhaust tubes. The art work—which defied the usual conceptions of art—became a nationwide sensation, but then somehow ended up in the hands of a plumber. An artist protest saved the work of art from being divided up and sold off for individual parts.
For the Belvedere in Vienna, Oberhuber has created a site-specific installation which includes drawings, paintings, and sculptures that are thematically related to Prince Eugen of Savoy, who was the founder of the Belvedere. Thematic exhibitions suit the artist. The thematic approach accommodates his resolution of permanent change: it not only permits artistic movement, but challenges it as well.
Oberhuber stresses the fact that he regards the work that he specifically created for the exhibition in the Belvedere as an overall composition. The works do not exist on their own, but rather in the context of the exhibition and its interpretation.
In finding an artistic language for a subject from the eighteenth century, how it related to current times was an important aspect for the artist. Bright colors prevail, the works are often graphically oriented and spare in detail. The use of color and simple graphics challenge the usual assumptions that visitors hold of royal portraits, creating a playful, ironic, almost comic effect. Oberhuber is not concerned about being accommodating, but rather about creating points through which the viewer can connect and thereby facilitate understanding. Using less words, the strengths of the works become apparent through what they downsize: those things which are often primally sensed, but at the same time, resist the current widespread view that their clarity depends on how densely they are applied.
Looking at the group of works inspired by war events, Oberhuber commented that these take on a partly critical attitude in relation to these occurrences—in a softer language, of course, because he can only speak softly, and prefers not to state something in a brutal fashion. (wh)
The works of Oswald Oberhuber can be seen in the exhibition, “The Passions of Prince Eugen", at the Orangerie, Belvedere in Vienna from May 29th through September 13th, 2009.