press release

„A painter is a phantasy-talented human being.“ Otto Breicha, Curator of the „Wirklichkeiten“ exhibitions 1968 and 1988.

Legendary group of Austrian artists of the Seventies WIRKLICHKEITEN (REALITIES), Austrian classics of contemporary painting on show at the KunstHausWien from 3 October 2002 till 9 February 2003:

The title of the exhibition „In Praise of Painting“ was chosen after a painting of Kurt Kocherscheidt (22.5.1940 – 13.11.1992).

When they held their first joint exhibition, in the merry month of May, 1968 in the Vienna Secession, the Viennese art critic Alfred Schmeller came up with the witty idea of comparing them to crocodiles. Crocodiles that had once again slipped into the cozy little carp pond called live-and-let-live. The abstractionists had pretty much been put out to pasture by then, and in their place the fantasts of the moment had a bigger piece of the action; Pop and Op Art had not yet made their way to Eastern Austria (fashion trends need time to get to Vienna). Back then, in May, 1968, a motley freak show was put on, motley and abnormal as a matter of conviction and damned-if-I-won't. The crocodiles opened their jaws wide, and they were beautiful. And the painter-crocodiles have not stopped showing their teeth (and sticking out their tongues) to the present day...

They come from all directions of artistic endeavour. They are friends, but seldom run in a pack. They are a group, but without esprit de corps and group discipline. They are only sitting in the same boat inasmuch as they want to achieve more or less the same thing.

They don't meddle in each others' work and won't be meddled with. What they have most in common is a common good opinion - of one's self and the others. They will not found a gallery nor a school of art, but go on painting their own pictures and indulge their own special preferences. They can get excited about slogans, but it's not easy to pigeonhole them. They are cheeky and bold. They are romantic and yet extremely topical. They are not happy about having been born in the present era. They want to make things better in their way and know that the chances of changing the world are particularly good.

The exhibition in the Vienna Secession made a group of the six individualists. Pure chance brought them together; the name "Realities" came about almost by accident. At the time it was one of the youngest exhibitions ever to be held in the Secession. The opening saw throngs of young people; the bigwigs had stayed home.

The observant chronicler of art, trained to sample similarities and contrasts, thinks he recognises in these young "Realities" a long overdue protest against the generation of their uncles, stewing in their own ideas.

These fresh realities are more hands-on and accessible than the pictorial objectivity of the abstractionists, but on the other hand far less close to the representational depiction propagated by the latter-day surrealism of fantastic naturalism. A no-holds-barred, often ironic reflexion is of course de rigueur. There are also no more preserves to lock art up in. The wish to communicate can't help but call up the object. The brand new handwriting is applied to the phenomenon, purposely chosen to be the focus of awareness. Once again one can get away with dealing with thematic complexes or tackle the complex in complicated ways.

But the reality they have in mind is in any case a reality opposed to the peel-off blood-and-soil nature scenes and an argument against the art-ideological shortcircuit opinion that for a picture to be good it has to be beautiful (and vice versa). The new beauty (which can just as well be ugly) feels at home where things are full of tension and conflict. The logic of the way we have learned to think in images was replaced by a (fantastic enough) probability which can only be measured by its degree of imaginative intensity. These realities are a world doctrine. Model and utopia become indistinguishable. That is their impudence. That is their reality.

Six names, six individualities which can hardly be confused, six pretty independent worlds of images and imagination. They may be good friends, but this is a group with no elaborate concept, with no prearranged joint marching plan. They put on joint exhibitions and will go on doing so, just as they have till now, exhibiting by chance and as the occasion arose – all together and everyone for himself. They don't meddle in each others' work and won't be meddled with. They have their own ideas (and fears) about what art, i. e., handpainted canvas, paper and plastic sheet, should be good for in future.

only in german

In Praise of Painting
Meisterwerke der Gruppe "Wirklichkeiten"
Kurator: Otto Breicha

mit Wolfgang Herzig, Martha Jungwirth, Kurt Kocherscheidt, Peter Pongratz, Franz Ringel, Robert Zeppel-Sperl