Red and black, an ode to life according to Hermann Nitsch



#PARIS Hermann Nitsch, the terrible child of Austrian contemporary art who became known in the 1960s and 1970s for his bloody and highly controversial performances, is in Paris. He exhibits about thirty works painted at the RX gallery.


Born in Vienna in 1938, his childhood was marked by war with its share of violence, air strikes, deprivation… Terrible years that will forever mark the artist and his work. In the early 1960s, he co-founded the Wiener Aktionismus movement (Viennese actionism) of which he is one of the most important representatives alongside Viennese artists such as Günter Brus, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Otto Mühl, whose works can currently be seen at the Eric Dupont Gallery in Paris. He created his first works based on a variant of dripping with a performative dimension and laid the foundations of his project with his first Aktionan experimental performance, in which the artist spills blood on a man chained in crucifixion


It was at this time that he developed the concept of “Theater of Orgies and Mysteries”. With the integration of all forms of art: painting, architecture, music… thus wishing to create a total work of art and gradually put all the senses of the participants under tension until, at the highest point, everyone becomes differently aware of their existence. Hermann Nitsch’s world view is strongly influenced by writers such as Sade, Nietzsche, Artaud, Bataille and others

Each Aktion is the subject of a real work of preliminary writing, drawings, plans like an opera composer. He also created the musical score. These A’sktions seem to reproduce a liturgy, a sacred ritual complete with procession, communion, songs… Nitsch like many of his contemporaries fails to forgive Austria’s position during the Second World War. Its “ceremonies” attempt to exorcise this past and also denounce a corseted, rigid and brutal society.


At the same time, Nitsch developed an important pictorial work. In particular, with works of blood in the 1970s and paintings whose dominant colour is red

Hermann Nitsch claims that “red is the most intense colour I know. Red is the color of life and death at the same time. Blood is the sap of life. Red blood, which flows, signals injury, pain, danger and death.”


Nitsch’s work is therefore radical and, of course, cleavable. Gallery owner Eric Dereumaux, convinced of the unique potential of Nitsch’s pictorial works, has decided to present only paintings that, in themselves, represent the essence of the artist’s work. Aware of the polemical profile of the artist, Eric Dereumaux and Denise Wendel-Poray, the curator of the exhibition, have therefore decided that there would be noAktion during this exhibition and that the paintings presented would offer an axis of openness and understanding of the artist’s overall work. This painting is of course not disconnected from his complete work and remains in line with the performances that made this artist famous. Books dedicated to his work can be browsed in one of the gallery’s rooms and allow you to see photographs of the many performances orchestrated by Nitsch.

The global artist, accustomed to mastering everything, was reluctant to the idea of an exhibition devoted solely to painting. Finally, thanks to Eric Dereumaux’s conviction and persuasion, he was convinced. Hermann Nitsch’s painting is physical, nervous. In his Nitsch practice involves the body, his hand and fingerprints in thick layers of black or red paint testify to this. The strong presence of red in the form of splashes and drips which evokes blood of course dialogue with deep blacks. Four blood paintings made in the 70s are also presented as well as a small series of works on paper of a totally different style in which paintings, engravings and drawings are mixed.


Finally, the aktions are never far away with Hermann Nitsch who decided on an amazing intervention on the first day of the exhibition. Indeed, he worked on two blood paintings made forty years ago. He modified these works with bandages, bandages and tissues. It’s as if he needed to repair himself by dressing his own work. Eric Dereumaux’s appeased proposal to Hermann Nitsch had this particular effect, the artist appeased himself. The violence of the world, the guilt over the history of his country, which he denounced in bloody and violent performances, marked his life and his art, at the age of eighty he may finally have found peace. A personal and artistic catharsis.


Hermann Nitsch

“Paintings Only”

From October 11 to November 24, 2018

Exhibition curator: Denise Wendel-Poray


RX Gallery

16, rue des Quatre Fils

75003 Paris


Patrice Huchet

Passionate since his childhood about all forms of artistic expression, he began his career in the world of tourism where he practiced travel photography. He then joined a photo agency where he held...

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