11.06.2010 to 10.01.2011
Otto Muehl. Leopold Collection
• Days with event
at the Leopold Collection
Date: Jun, 11 till jan, 10
Venue: LEOPOLD MUSEUM
The Leopold Museum will soon be mounting ots first-ever exhibition to feature a representative selection of works by the controversial Austrian artist Otto Muehl (*1925). Over the course of many years, Prof. Rudolf Leopold has brought together a sizeable collection of Muehl\'s paintings and works on paper. The emphasis of this showing will be on his works from the 1980s and 1990s.\r\n
Muehl is known above all as an actionist. Alongside Günther Brus (*1938), Hermann Nitsch (*1938) and Rudolf Schwarzkogler (1940-1969), he is regarded as one of the main protagonists of Viennese Actionism. His oeuvre is also closely connected to the communes which he founded in the 1970s. The partial illegality of the methods used by one of these experimental communities led to the artist\'s spending several years in prison during the early 1990s.\r\n
To this day, the nearly 85-year-old artist Otto Muehl remains a polarizing figure. Experts from all over the world admire his works and demand that the darker sides of the individual and the works of the artist be viewed separately. Others condemn his activities, accusing him of totalitarian methods and considering the separation of his art from his personal behavior to be impossible. Throughout history, artists have been subject again and again to criminal proceedings. The baroque genius Caravaggio was suspected of having committed murder, and he actually did spend time in prison for
participating in various brawls. The expressionist Egon Schiele also spent several days behind bars: Schiele faced - entirely unfounded - charges of having abused minors and distributed indecent drawings.
Otto Muehl\'s visual works range from conceptually structured material paintings and extremely gestural expressive art to graphic works of a decidedly two-dimensional appearance, in which solid colors constitute the dominant formal element. Otto Muehl frequently quotes the pathos of the early expressionists, referring explicitly to heroes such as Vincent van Gogh. At the same time, he also imbues his works with elements of contemporary subculture which work with the parameters of ironic alienation, satire and a grotesque comic book style. In a downright obsessive way, Muehl makes a theme of sexual motifs and violations of sexual taboos in his paintings.\r\n
Otto Muehl was born in Grodenau, Burgenland on 16 June 1925. The Nazi German Wehrmacht conscripted him as an 18-year-old in 1943, and he was sent to the front in 1944. In 1946, Muehl completed secondary school in Wiener Neustadt. He then went on to pursue a degree in German studies and history at the University of Vienna, where he earned his teaching certificate in 1952. In 1953, Muehl began studying art education at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna with Gerda Matejka-Felden. During his period as a student there, he worked as an analytical drawing therapist, and from 1958 onward he was employed at a home for developmentally disabled children. In 1960, Muehl mounted his first solo exhibition at the gallery \'Junge Generation\' in Vienna. The early 1960s saw him execute his first material paintings and junk sculptures. In 1962, Muehl joined forces with Hermann Nitsch and Adolf Frohner (1934-2007) to develop the manifesto \'Die Blutorgel\'. As part of the associated action, the artists had themselves walled into a basement studio for three days. The masonry was then reopened in the presence of an audience. 1963 witnessed Muehl\'s first \'material action\', entitled \'Versumpfen eines weiblichen Körpers\' [Degradation of a Female Body]. Between
1964 and 1966, Muehl frequently staged additional material actions, psychodramatic solo performances and politically charged group actions which always included a strong sexual dynamic. Muehl\'s actions, which were documented in films and groups of photographs by figures including Kurt Kren and Ludwig Hoffenreich, are today the objects of worldwide interest.
Muehl\'s actions were always strongly polarizing, and they eventually gave rise to \'Zock\', which was the artist\'s \'program of political action.\' Together with Günther Brus, Muehl founded the „Institut für Direkte Kunst\' [Institute of Direct Art]. In London, the artist participated in the \'Destruction in Art Symposium.\' June of 1968 witnessed the notorious action Kunst und Revolution [Art and Revolution] at the University of Vienna, where Muehl appeared with figures including Peter Weibel (*1944), Günther Brus and Oswald Wiener (*1935). The police broke up this action by force, and Muehl
was to spend the next two months in investigative custody.
In 1970, Otto Muehl founded the „Praterstraße Commune\" in Vienna, and a further such project was to follow in 1972 with the development of the socio-sexual, utopian „Friedrichshof Commune\" in the province of Burgenland. This commune was structured on the basis of free sexuality and collective ownership of property, shared childrearing responsibility, encouragement of artistic creativity and the further development of action analysis into analytical self-representation.\r\n
Former members of the commune and other critics condemn Muehl\'s authoritarian system, which facilitated indignities and child abuse. The Leopold Museum distances itself clearly and unequivocally from the sexual abuse to which the group experiment at Friedrichshof in some cases led. It is nonetheless important to show Muehl\'s works and facilitate discussion.\r\n
In 1973, Muehl performed his final public action, and the period beginning in 1974 saw his return to painting. In 1990, the Friedrichshof Commune was dissolved. In 1991, a court in Eisenstadt sentenced Muehl to seven years\' imprisonment without parole due to punishable offenses against decency and the violation of narcotics laws. Thanks to a general amnesty granted on the occasion of the 50-year jubilee of the Second Austrian Republic, Muehl was released from prison after having served six-and-ahalf years. Since 1998, Muehl has lived and worked in Faro, Portugal.
Supporting programme: \"Otto Muehl. Collection Leopold\"
Date: Thu, Jul 22, 18:00
Guided Tour (only in German) with Stefan Kutzenberger.
Date: Thu, Sep 30, 18:00
Guided Tour (only in German) with Diethard Leopold
© VBK Wien, 2010