Avant-garde awareness: Maria Lassnig survey opens at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Avant-garde awareness: Maria Lassnig survey opens at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel are continuing their commitment to women artists this season. This weekend in Los Angeles the gallery unveils the first ever solo exhibition of Maria Lassnig in the city, surveying 50 years of the late Austrian artist’s work with painting.

Lassnig is known for the ’body awareness’ method that she first developed in 1948 in her studio in Klagenfurt. In an interview aged 89, she explained this as ’I was sitting in a chair and felt it pressing against me. I still have the drawings where I depicted the sensation of sitting. The hardest thing is to really concentrate on the feeling while drawing. Not drawing a rear end because you know what it looks like, but drawing the rear end feeling.’

Spread across five rooms – organised by distinct chronological periods in Lassnig’s work spanning five decades – the exhibition explores the artist’s groundbreaking and influential artistic language. This includes examples of her early avant-garde experiments in the 1950s; among them an oil on cardboard, Flächenteilung Schwarz-Weiss-Grau 2 (Field-division black-white-grey 2), dated 1953. Lassnig was disappointed by the fact the work was never recognised as avant-garde at the time as it should have been. ’In hindsight it can’t be appreciated how advanced my work was,’ she once said.

Compared to works such as her famous Dreifaches Selbtsporträt / New Self (Triple Self-Portrait / New Self), made in 1972 – or to the surprising imagery that appears in her work during her final years (teddy bears, bunnies, bubbles), it’s clear that Lassnig never ran out of ideas of things to do with paint. Avant-garde or not, the exhibition reveals the truly energetic range of Lassnig, over a remarkable career, as she moved from Vienna to Paris and New York. 

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