press release

Maria Lassnig
15.07.2017 – 15.10.2017

Zachęta — National Gallery of Art presents the first retrospective in Poland of one of the most original painters of the twentieth century, Maria Lassnig (1919–2014, Austria).

Featuring large scale paintings that reveal her long standing exploration of the body and self-representation the exhibition spans her career; from work made during the 1940s in Vienna, periods spent in Paris and New York, her return to Austria in 1980 and paintings made in the final years of her life.

Influenced at an early stage by art movements that celebrate gestural, informal and spontaneous practice such as art informel, tachisme and surrealism, Lassnig developed a singular body of work, making boldly expressive, brightly coloured oil paintings with the human figure at the centre of her compositions.

The exhibition emphasises Lassnig’s interest in ‘body-awareness’, a term she coined herself to express her commitment to painting the sensations experienced by the body alongside the realistic representation of the body itself. The exhibition will feature a large group of self-portraits spanning 70 years and ranging from Expressive Self-Portrait (Selbstporträt expressiv, 1945) to her Self-Portrait with Brush (Selbstporträt mit Pinsel, 2010–2013). Using herself as the subject of her paintings, they address the fragility of the body, the aging process and the passing of time.

In addition to self-portraiture, the exhibition also shows a selection of paintings that depict the body morphed with household objects and mechanical devices, or with weapons, in paintings that refer to the Gulf war of 1991. Although defined as an artist for whom the focus on the self is of key importance, these works, such as Kitchen War (Der Küchenkrieg, 1991) reveal Lassnig’s deep interest in the human condition and our relationship with technology and its impact on society.

During Lassnig’s 70 year career her unwavering commitment to ‘body-awareness’ remained persistent and the exhibition celebrates the singular vision of this artist who was never willing to be categorised. Despite being largely underrepresented until recent years, Maria Lassnig has played an influential role in the development of painting in the 20th and 21st centuries and her work has been met with critical acclaim and inspired other artists such as Paul McCarthy and Martin Kippenberger.

curator: Kasia Redzisz
assistant curator of behalf of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka
exhibition production: Anna Muszyńska i zespół
educational programme: Stanisław Welbel
organizer of the exhibition: Tate Liverpool
cooperation: Maria Lassnig Foundation