Arnulf Rainer and Respect for Arnulf Rainer: József Gaál, Tamás Kopasz, István Nádler, Károly Szikszai

Arnulf Rainer, born in 1929 in Baden, Austria, is internationally renowned for his abstract informal art. In his early years, he was influenced by surrealism, especially André Breton’s poetry. In the 1950s, Rainer's style evolved towards Destruction of Forms, with blackenings, overpaintings, and maskings of illustrations and photographs dominating his later work.

He was close to the Viennese Actionism. His early works attempted to scan the boundaries of the human psyche as an objection against the prevailing political, moral and aesthetic norms.

The message of Rainer’s paintings is usually encased and hidden. He has been covering his canvasses with a monochromatic coat of paint since 1957, as if he wanted to deprive the observer from the very essence. His photographs are abstract mixtures of illusion and reality, concealment and revelation.

Initially, he took grimace photographs of himself and overpainted them. As the grimaces and contorted poses encountered harsh colours and gestures in the sterile laboratory environment, the final impression became even more perturbing and depressing.

The lens of the camera reflected a constructed, surreal world.

Imprisoned in the closed system of our personality, human instinct sometimes unconsciously breaks through to the surface. Rainer considered these unconscious grimaces as psychopathic and schizophrenic structures escaping from human personality. His photographs, frequently revised paintings and overpaintings of past masters are attempts to capture this psychic transformation.

His iconoclastic gestures transform, and very often distort, the original meaning of the photographs. Rainer’s Death Mask series were created against the backdrop of posturing and mannerism. The face of a dead person, he says, is the “last imprint of human expression”.

Rainer’s artworks have only been showcased in Hungary three times so far. This time, Virág Judit Gallery is proud to exhibit important parts of his death mask series, some Schiele and Klimt overdrawings, Lötz-vase interpretations, and a couple of veiled oil paintings produced in the mid 1990s.

The artist’s works are exhibited in renowned museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Tate Modern in London. As an appreciation of his art, the Arnulf Rainer Museum opened in New York City in 1993.

In addition to Rainer’s art, the exhibition features works of József Gaál, Tamás Kopasz, István Nádler and Károly Szikszai. Following an earlier group exhibition in Collegium Hungaricum, Vienna, in 2006, the Hungarian quartet now rejoin with Rainer. Despite their distinctive conceptual background, the expressive paintings of the artists share common stylistic attributes beyond the use of automatism. The Hungarian painters’ deeply emotional gestures rhyme with Rainer’s raw and wild actionism.

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