Three of the most prominent representatives of Austrian post-War art are the focus of a joint presentation by Galerie Dierking, Zurich and Galerie Thomas Salis, Salzburg at this year's international market ART COLOGNE (Hall 11.1 / Stand A 21). On display are selected works by Hans Bischoffshausen, Karl Prantl and Arnulf Rainer: "What links them – beyond the boundaries of their extremely diverse artistic languages as painter, graphic artist or sculptor – is the search for a radical new beginning in art, and thus for new artistic forms of expression", explain gallerists Dierk Dierking and Thomas Salis. "For these artists born in the 1920s, an art unencumbered by the past was marked equally by an extremely reduced formal vocabulary, autonomy of colour and a minimalist choice of materials."
This first joint exhibition by the three important Austrian avant-garde artists demonstrates the place taken by their country's art within the overall European development of abstract, expressive or informel trends. Promoted by the legendary Viennese Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Bischoffshausen, Prantl and Rainer all maintained active contact with the international avant-garde in Germany, Italy and France. A productive exchange of ideas with artists including Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni led to a clear expansion of the concept of art in Austria.
Never before has a joint exhibition offered the opportunity of viewing, and thus of comparing, these three artists, whose influence on the art world extended far beyond their national borders. Whereas Bischoffshausen and Prantl, with their abstract pictures and sculptures, sought forms of expression based on the Zen-like aesthetic of stillness and meditation, Rainer's strength, by stark contrast, lies in expressive force and corporeality. The Art Cologne stand shows almost 30, mostly early works by these pioneers of post-War art, dating from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The prices range from approximately 15,000 Euro for Bischoffshausen's works on paper, to seven figures for objects by Rainer or Prantl.
Monochrome painting and minimalist structural reliefs characterise this new post-War art in the work of Hans Bischoffshausen (1927-1987). Self-taught, after studying architecture, he spoke in the mid-1950s of his "plunge into painting", initially following models such as Paul Klee or Hans Arp. An art prize allowed him to fulfil his dream of moving to Paris, where he lived with his family in extremely modest circumstances. His lifelong friendship with Lucio Fontana – which began in 1957 and had far-reaching consequences – afforded him active contact with an artistic trend that may be regarded as having triggered the ZERO movement; Bischoffshausen fell under the spell of a completely new kind of art, which led him to develop strongly reduced white-on-white structural reliefs. His monochrome pictures in black or gold, nearing the boundaries of the representational, radiate a meditative stillness. "Perhaps I am here to learn what the present is, and a little to shake hands with madness", he wrote. Bischoffshausen's legacy includes a literary work in several volumes. An ascetic artist, whose life and work were remarkably consistent, he subsequently held international exhibitions and made a critical study of the art world.
Likewise, a high degree of asceticism marks the œuvre of Karl Prantl (1923-2010), one of the outstanding sculptors of his generation. Having studied painting with Albert Paris Gütersloh at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, he turned, virtually self-taught, to sculpture. Landscape and nature very soon became not only his place of work in a Burgenland quarry, but also the theme of his sculptures, based on cubes and cuboids. Stone, he explained, was the means of "freeing oneself from many constraints, limitations and taboos". He founded the Stone Sculpture Symposium in St. Margarethen, with international participation. His works are displayed in public space in several towns and cities in Germany and Austria, as well as in the open landscape – often sculptures resulting from the symposia. Museums and galleries in several European countries have frequently displayed his works. Besides many other awards, he received the Grand Austrian State Prize in 2008. As a pioneer of non-representational sculpture, Prantl clearly stood out from the contemporary Austrian sculpture scene.
With his unmistakable "overpaintings", begun in the early 1950s, Arnulf Rainer (b 1929) has for decades been a permanent fixture in the European art scene. Initially a proponent of surrealism and informel, Rainer was decisively influenced by his acquaintance with Jackson Pollock and Wols, whom he had met in Paris; here he also sought the company of André Breton. His first overpaintings of other people's work were done simply out of a scarcity of canvases, but then colleagues including Victor Vasarely and Sam Francis gave him pictures to rework. Gestural structures carried out with fingers and feet covered the original motifs, endowing Rainer's pictures with a mysterious magic. For the series Kunst über Kunst, he reworked photographs of motifs by Gustav Doré, sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt and Leonardo da Vinci. Rainer, who also experimented with drugs and carried out studies in psychiatric clinics, repeatedly and vehemently flouted social norms and taboos. His work has been shown three times at the documenta in Kassel since 1972.
26.4. – 29.4.2017
Art Cologne, Hall 11.1 / Stand A 21