CINCINNATI.- The Contemporary Arts Center presents a solo exhibition of vibrantly colorful, dramatically intense oil paintings by Austrian artist Maria Lassnig. Initiated and organized by the Serpentine Gallery in London and curated by Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist in association with Rebecca Morrill, the exhibition features work made during the most recent ten years of Lassnigs career, as well as seven films made between 1971 and 1992.
The prolific, 89-year-old Lassnig is recognized as one of Europes most inventive and influential artists. Raphaela Platow, CACs Alice & Harris Weston Director and Chief Curator, has spent many years studying Lassnigs work, visiting her studio and learning about the artists process, methods and extraordinary artistic production.
Maria Lassnig has exhibited a fiercely idiosyncratic independence and has persevered in her autonomy consistently eschewing fashionable trends, while remaining oblivious to her standing in the art world, asserts Platow. Instead of responding to popular contemporary movements, Lassnig has developed her own stylistic and thematic approaches, giving her work a timeless quality and a cohesive aesthetic.
Her most distinctive paintings are the body-awareness paintings, self-portraits that represent her internalized senses by depicting her figure in distorted, alternate-reality poses. She calls a separate group of works her "drastic paintings, describing their pure realism, a little embellished and uglified. A series of paintings of couples exemplifies her attraction to beautiful subjects and challenging textures, as the artist paints her models in loving embraces and playful poses, or enveloped in luminous plastic sheeting, focusing on the qualities of light and shadow that bind the figures.
Lassnigs gripping body-awareness paintings visually project the bodily sensations the artist is feeling. Lassnig wrote about her work in Artforum: "Figuration comes about almost automatically, because in my art, I start first and foremost with myself. I do not aim for the big emotions when I'm working, but concentrate on small feelings: sensations in the skin or in the nerves, all of which one feels." The results are striking, biologically deformed but familiar images that show heightened color and limbs and facial features out of place or shape, reflective of the body's inner sensitivities.
The act of painting and the materials involved provide the artist with the tool, the prism and the methodology to transform her subjective feelings (sensations) into objective representations, which, over time, create a compilation of recurring and recognizable imagery, Platow states.
Maria Lassnig was born in Carinthia, Austria, in 1919, and trained in Vienna. She spent several years in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s where she was exposed to Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism. She lived in New York from 1968 to 1980, making films that used her body-awareness as a basis for remarkably inventive and humorous narratives. On her return to Austria in 1980, she became the first female Professor of Painting in a German-speaking country at Vienna University of Applied Arts. Her work garnered acclaimed critical response when she represented Austria in the 39th Venice Biennale that year, and was featured in Documenta 7 in 1982.
Lassnigs work was featured recently in Life on Mars, the 55th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2008 and in the major touring survey Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2007, and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including Museum of Modern Art, Ludwig Foundation, Vienna, 1999; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1995; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1994; and Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf, 1985.
Her work was included in The Broken Mirror, curated by Kasper Knig and Hans Ulrich Obrist, part of the 1993 Vienna Festival.
Maria Lassnig will remain on view through January 11, 2009 in the Rosenthal Center.