020608: Serpentine Gallery: Maria Lassnig

Serpentine Gallery: Maria Lassnig Bodies and Affairs What does Maria Lassnig, the Grand Dame of Austrian art, have in common with rock singer Tina Turner? Turner celebrated a tremendously successful and body conscious solo-comeback when she was nearly 60. Over the last 60 years Lassnig, now nearly 90 focused her work on “body awareness paintings”. For the first time a public gallery in the UK is showing Lassnig’s work in a solo presentation. The exhibit includes a selection of her sensational fresh and vibrant oil paintings and rarely exhibited films. The Austrian’s work is characterized by her urge to deal humorously with such precarious topics such as war, violence, love and sexual abuse; and the depictions of these topics are merciless. In her animated films she performs as a singer and accompanies body-related narratives with her monotonous choir singing. “Du oder ich” (you or me) (2005) her famous work depicting her nude self with a gun pointed at the audience and the other against her temple clearly shows her desire to provoke confrontation. The work is not necessarily meant to be an attack against the social environment, it could just as well be an expression of the painter’s containment towards her own, true, exalted, or narcissistic body awareness, as Robert Storr suggests in the catalogue. Antagonistic emotions are also present in other paintings such as “Eiserne Jungfrau und Fleischige Jungfrau” (iron virgin and fleshy virgin) and “Fotografie gegen Malerei” (photography versus painting). Lassnig’s style of painting is all about drawing attention to how one sees and produces one’s own personality. All of this happens beyond feminism, which is, however, always vindictively being forced onto her. In one of the side rooms of the Serpentine Gallery Lassnig’s paintings of elderly, obese, naked, lonely men are shown in ambivalent poses and obvious sexual activities. The paintings are titled “Der Weltzertrümmerer” (the destroyer of the world, 2003), “Don Juan d’Austria” and “Bugbear”. Her most recent works are somewhat of a surprise. The figures are painted with dark, cool colours, enveloped by shadows and their desire for death and beauty refers to a religious Christian tradition of painting. They show lovers, paradisiacal love and tenderness as well as extramarital couples. Those depicted are often seen under a transparent plastic foil, as if they were encased in a body bag – they seem more dead than alive. These prosaic distanced dramatic works come across as eccentric and yet again clearly assert the painter’s subjective approach. Serpentine Gallery W23XA London, Kensington Gardens, until 08.06.08 www.serpeintinegallery.org

Serpentine Gallery
W2 3XA London, Kensington Gardens
Tel: ++44-20 7402 6075, Fax: ++44-20 7402 4103
Email: information@serpentinegallery.org
Öffnungszeiten: 10-18 h

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