Günter Brus and Alfons Schilling around 1960

Dropping out of the Picture


Curated by: Roman Grabner

About the exhibition

In 1956 Alfons Schilling, born in Basel, moves to Vienna where, as a visiting student of graphics and painting at the Academy of Applied Arts, he meets Günter Brus. From January 1960 the two spend several months together on Mallorca, where they meet the young American artist Joan Merrit, who familiarises them with the painting of the ‘New York School’. The explosive energy of abstract expressionism opens up a new perspective to them, enabling them to explode the rigid conventions and narrow confines of panel painting.

Back in Vienna, powerfully gestural abstractions are created on large-format sheets of paper or canvas stapled directly to the wall. Meeting nearly every day, they discuss the challenges of painting post-Jackson Pollock. Both artists strive towards an expansive form of painting that develops equally in all directions. Their joint exhibition in 1961 in the ‘Galerie Junge Generation’ (Gallery Young Generation) garners ambivalent reviews.

Austrian daily newspapers reflect the understanding of art as found in the public, ranging from ironic helplessness to rejection. Schilling solves the problem of the pictorial carrier fixed statically to the wall by working on a picture on a round disk that can be turned. By developing rotating pictures, he achieves the breakthrough whereby painting is definitively abolished: the dematerialisation of the representative art object in the form of optical colours and forms that turn to light. In contrast, Brus places the focus on the movement of the body in front of the canvas, detaching the gesture from the painting and developing his actionist art: ‘action on the canvas, action in front of the canvas, action without the canvas.’ (Peter Weibel)


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