Maria Lassnig is among the most important artists living today. An individual exhibition at the MUMOK
celebrating her 90th birthday will concentrate on works made during the past 10 years. All of the more than 60 paintings testify to the sensitivity and diversity of her late work full of life and radiant colors. Recent large-format paintings will be shown for the first time within her show at the MUMOK.
Over the course of her long career, Lassnig has been an important example for many artists, influencing an entire generation of painters. One of the most important aspects of her work throughout her sixty-year career has been to explore the way the bodys sensations are reflected in the medium of painting: One thing is certain. I dont paint or draw the body as an object but rather the sensations of the body. (Maria Lassnig, 1999) And she never shied away from expressing her feelings. Whether her strengths or weaknesses whatever she discovered on her inner journeys was integrated into her paintings.
Maria Lassnig, who often likes to cultivate the aura of a loner and who has said about herself, Sometimes I wish that I were a little less nice, has continued to develop her work over the course of many decades. She has consistently made relevant work in dramatically different societal and historical contexts. This has often been one of the reasons why her work has always been difficult to classify. Any specific stylistic trend in her work has only been valid as long as it did not get in the way of new experiences.
Her most recent paintings are especially convincing in their independence, striking colors, passionate and often elusive chromatic combinations. Here memory has played an important role as Lassnig stressed in an interview in Artforum: Memory has become more important to me over the past few years. The outside world impinges on us so much today that it has become almost impossible to depict anything else.
The exhibition concentrates on the ninth decade of Maria Lassnigs work, showing how it has developed with respect to earlier works, without at the same time becoming redundant. Not without a certain share of irony, she has interpreted themes that she had already worked through before. Once again, there are mystical elements in her work, like for example in the so-called Kellerbilder that were made in her basement in Carinthia during a particularly hot summer. She asked some of her younger neighbors to pose for her, giving them some plastic wrap to hold in front of their faces. Here she was making a reference to memories she had of fruit packed in cellophane wrap, which she long ago saw for the first time in a supermarket in New York. During the early 1970s, she had painted a still life with apples and likewise a self-portrait with cellophane wrap. In addition, there are numerous self-portraits with animals along with a series of pictures of memories that go all the way back to her time at the art academy. With nude models she staged a short Adam and Eve series. Her recent works have tended towards a new freedom of method, combining her characteristic broad strokes with more naturalistic painting techniques.
The Ninth Decade represents the third large-scale solo show by Maria Lassnig with the previous exhibitions in 1985 and 1999 having been conceived more as classical retrospectives.
Maria Lassnig was born in 1919 in Kappel am Krappfeld, Carinthia. She began studies with Wilhelm Dachauer at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1941, but she was forced to leave in 1943 because her works were classified as degenerate. She then continued her studies with Ferdinand Andri and Hebert Boeckl. During the 1950s and 1960s, she spent many years in Paris, coming into contact with surrealism and other contemporary art movements such as American and French art informel.
The first body-oriented watercolors are made at this time. From 1968 to 1980, Maria Lassnig lived in New York where she took part in a class at the School of Visual Arts on animated film after which she began making her own films. In 1980, she returned to Austria and became a professor of painting at the Academy of Applied Arts Vienna, the first woman to do so in any German-speaking country. Her work gained increasing recognition as she along with Valie Export represented Austria in 1982 at the 39th Venice Biennale and took part in the documenta 7.
In recognition of her life-long contribution to art, she has already received many important awards, including the Grand Austrian State Prize (the first woman to be awarded it in 1988), the Oskar Kokoschka Prize (1988) and the Max Beckmann Prize of the City of Frankfurt (2004). Special thanks is owed to the MUMOK partners: Dorotheum, Uniqa, Wittmann and the media partners Der Standard, Compliment, Wienerin, Profil, Vormagazin.