Hermann Nitsch. Cathartic Aversion

curated by Flaminio Gualdoni
ABC-ARTE, 2023
Hermann Nitsch. Cathartic Aversion: curated by Flaminio Gualdoni
Publisher: ABC-ARTE
Pages: 156
ISBN: 978-88-95618-31-9
€ 38.00

ABC-ARTE pays tribute to a major protagonist of the contemporary scene with an in-depth and comprehensive documentary survey and an exhibition which is not a simple presentation of the inanimate remains of the actions that Hermann Nitsch triggered or accompanied in his artistic career, but takes on a further vitality of its own with a strong and specific degree of communicative autonomy.


The artist, performer, dramatist, musician and philosopher Hermann Nitsch, who was the main protagonist of Viennese Action Painting, is regarded by many as one of the most important Austrian artists of all time. As a particularly controversial and experimental figure at the centre of polemics and boycotts, the ‘blood artist’ experienced peaks of fame, court trials and prison sentences before confirming his role as a permanent fixture of the contemporary art panorama.


The exhibition organised by ABC-ARTE in its historic gallery in Genoa and in the brand-new Milanese gallery sets out to convey by means of dense painterly materials and spontaneous gestures the total world of experience practised by Nitsch. In 1975 he founded Das Orgien Mysterien Theater, which pervaded his entire oeuvre.


From the early eminently painterly works of the 1960s and 1970s to the large canvases with relics of 77.malation, 2017, the extraordinary unicum of Omaggio ad Alberto Burri [Homage to Alberto Burri], 2015, and 158.aktion, 2020, the technical aspect of the work is always ostentatiously contaminated with objects and devices, from which the ritual and liturgical aspect of the operations emerges clearly. For the gallery in Milan we have chosen to document the large canvases of 29.malaktion (Mistelbach), 2018, in which the dominant yellow and the painterly component are the prevailing elements that radiate light and space.


The aim of this catalogue and the exhibition is to follow the philosophical references and intentions of this famous artist, who always emphasised how his actions, no matter how repulsive or revolting, were supposed to have a cathartic effect. The participants were drawn closer to the mysteries of life and death, often involved in crude and visceral performances, as they experienced new sensations and grew aware of the taboos imposed by social conventions.


Like the exhibition, this catalogue too has been made possible thanks to the valuable collaboration of the Museo Hermann Nitsch. Archivio Laboratorio per le Arti Contemporanee [Hermann Nitsch Museum. Archive Laboratory for Contemporary Arts], founded and directed in Naples by Peppe Morra. From 1974 it has followed the work of Nitsch from all points of view and conserves materials of primary importance.