60. Painting Action // 60. Malaktion
Mike Weiss Gallery is proud to host the first live painting action within the United States by Hermann Nitsch, founding member of the Viennese Actionism movement. On February 15 and 16, the gallery is open to the public for the rare chance to see Nitsch and his assistants perform a series of ritualistic painting acts. Through their directed and unrelenting splattering, pouring, smearing, and brushing of paint, viewers see plain canvases transform into evocative, evidentiary paintings. These works are exhibited at the gallery following the performance, from February 19 through March 19, 2011.
Rebelling against the devastating silence that typified the aftermath of World War II in Austria, Nitsch encourages the gushing, cathartic outburst of expression at its most raw and uncensored. He proclaims that to understand life, one must realize the emotional extremities that define it, from ecstatic elation to brutal sadness.
Nitsch's initial notoriety is tied to his Orgies Mysteries Theater, a series of six-day long events that he originally staged in the 1960s. These expressly honest and corporeal performances entail the sacrificial butchering of animals and pouring of blood over the participants, who are tied naked to crossed slabs of wood recalling a crucifixion. Through this reappropriation of blood sacrifice, Nitsch echoes humanity's universal and timeless religious association of blood with spirituality, empowerment, protection, and healing.
In 1989, Hermann Nitsch transitioned his medium from blood to paint to explore the life-affirming properties of light and color. Nitsch and his assistants assimilate the indoctrination of religious ceremonies through both collective action and white robed dress. As the action takes place, the robes are stained with paint and become reverential mementos of the performance. Like relics from a bygone era, the unpremeditated final images in the exhibition are testaments of activity and remnants of a life in its full, expressive range.
Hermann Nitsch is one of the most acclaimed European artists of his generation. He has influenced a host of artists as diverse as Carolee Schneemann and Damien Hirst. His paintings are included in several American collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum. In addition to major European museums, the Austrian government created a Herman Nitsch Museum near his home in Prinzendorf, Austria. Concurrent with this exhibition, The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver will present Bloodlines: Paintings by Hermann Nitsch from February 4 through May 29, 2011.