One of the most critically-acclaimed living artists, Hermann Nitsch turned 80 years of age in the Fall of 2018. He is now being celebrated in a series of exhibitions at museums throughout Austria, Italy, and Germany. A co-founder of what has become Viennese Actionism and the creator of the Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries he has spent his life dedicated to art. Despite hundreds of performances and exhibitions in some of the most prestigious institutions and galleries in the world, Nitsch continues to be restless, to innovate, to create new works that are intense as ever.
We will toast Mr. Nitsch’s birthday with an exhibition of new paintings produced in recent years, a body of work where color comes center stage. These are pictures of intense blues, greens, and yellows—a full spectrum of emotion and soulfulness. Painting and performance have always been intrinsically tied in his gesamtkunstwerk, or a total synthesis of the senses through art. Thus, the creative act, that moment of spontaneous explosion is most viscerally captured on canvas.
How does one create art about the exigencies of life? That Nitsch’s art engenders such strong protest, even prosecution, is understandable – his art is certainly unsettling and, as with some of the great artists, it is both uncompromising and revealing. Fearless and vital, it asks questions that are not always comfortable. Yet there is such beauty to be found in his paintings. His pigments offer the richness and palpability of life, for example the yellows veer towards the brilliance of the most vibrant of flowers or blues the deepest of oceans. While absolutely original, one can draw parallels to the greatest abstract paintings of the 20th century: Kazuo Shiraga of the Gutai movement, Yves Klein, or even Joan Mitchell. Each painting is the record of Nitsch’s passion and devotion, representing a life of originality, courage and dissidence.