Monday, 17 March 2014

Review of Viennese Season: Actionism at Richard Saltoun and Austin/Desmond Fine Art

Viennese Season: Actionism
Richard Saltoun, London
7 March – 4 April 2014
Austin/Desmond Fine Art
6 March – 4 April 2014

Suggestive, affective, nauseating. How to respond but with a wince, looking quickly away, perhaps a shudder right through to your groin, and then looking back to check whether what you thought you saw, really was what you saw? In 1960s Vienna, four men began producing art like never before. Along with body art, performance art and Fluxus elsewhere, they sought to take painting away from the constraints of the canvas – to use the body as both brush and canvas, to test its limits, to use it as raw material, raw flesh, to be butchered and reconstituted in performances or aktions, a full-on rejection of object-based or commodifiable art forms. Their wilfully transgressive and violently sensational works, sometimes performed for an audience, at other times for the camera, are looked on today as a body of work labelled as Viennese Actionism, and this joint exposé by Richard Saltoun and Austin/Desmond Fine Art constitutes the first major survey of the works in the UK.

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