Saturday, March 19, 2005

Art too extreme?

On the excellent, though very textful art blog by Libby Rosof, a surprizing review of the art of Hermann Nitsch (second part of the review actually, though the first one is interesting as well). The artist was the most (in)famous member of the Viennese Actionists in the 60's, with performances resembling strange, often bloody and/or cruel rituals, sometimes with animals, sometimes with sex. He is also the only member of the group to still be performing today. And he is controversial. Which becomes quite clear, once you've read the review. And the word "controversial" sounds different here- it is not just cool - it is close to aweful, evil. If you dare use the word in art. Libby Rosof does.

PS.: But the blog has many sides to it. Look closer, and you might find this review by James Thacker another step towards understanding something about contemporary art. Here's a fragment:
I found his performance work disgusting, yet intruiging, as it often took place at his Austrian castle (or so I was told)! I thought his graphic work, with as much blood-letting as his mystery plays, beautiful. He was explicit about the analogy in his work beween blood (and wine) and paint. I think I realized for the first time how the material quality of paint could have symbolic value -- a revelation for an American artist hitherto weened on iconography, text book pictures and slides. In class, Nitsch had us replicate taste or smell sensations visually by coloring in a strip of boxes on paper with a succession of colors. The emphasis on sensation and the quality of the medium as an important, if not always obvious, component of visual art impressed me.

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