As the world threw off the shackles of war in 1945, so artists rejected the constraints of previous styles. Most notably, perhaps, through the all-conquering rise of the abstract expressionism associated with the New York School. The Ways of Freedom exhibition at the Albertina Modern explores the times and the artists.
- Some 100 works by 30+ names
- Rothko, Rainer, Krasner, Pollock, Lassnig, and more…
- Startling pieces, even if we’re more used to them than historical audiences
- Runs Oct 15, 2022 to Jan 22, 2023
- Texts in English & German
- See also:
Abstract expressionism of the NY School
(Mark Rothko; Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red), 1954; oil on canvas; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President © 2022. Digital image Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko, Bildrecht, Vienna, 2022)
The end of the second world war saw seismic changes in Europe and a shift in global power centres. You might say the same of the art world.
Post-1945 saw, for example, the rise of New York to claim parity with the likes of Paris as a (the?) centre of modern art. The abstract expressionism that emerged from the whirlpool of creativity in The Big Apple soon spread across the globe.
New art for new times.
In Western Europe, this New York School coincided with the informalism that emerged at the rebirth of freedom; the creative dialogue between the two further encouraged the move away from more established artistic approaches.
This artistic era brought forth many names that remain resonant today. Names like Mark Rothko, subject of a recent exhibition at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. Or Jackson Pollock, who said in 1950:
“…the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of Renaissance or of any past culture. Each age finds its own technique…”
Ways of Freedom explores the talents and styles that came out of post-WWII New York and that interplay with Europe’s own development. The result is a collection of colour illustrating the dramatic break from the past.
As such, the artists featured are inevitably those closely associated with the US abstract expressionist movement, particularly those who made significant contributions to art developments on Europe’s side of the Atlantic.
(Arnulf Rainer; Vertikalgestaltung, 1951; Ölkreide und Öl auf kreidegrundiertem Karton; The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – The ESSL Collection; photo: Photoatelier Laut © Arnulf Rainer)
Equally, we also see contributions from Austrian artists who bathed in the waters of those times. Some of whom – like Maria Lassnig – themselves achieved global acclaim.
The exhibition arranges works both by artist and technique or topic. So, for example, you find Rothko and Barnett Newman neighbours in the colour field painting section.
The broad collection of works on display certainly brings home the departure from established conventions, even if we might have become more blasé about the styles after a few decades of exposure.
Even viewed from 2022, numerous works still shake you out of cynical soporific contemplation.
Entering one room, for example, reveals Judit Reigl’s dramatic smears and right behind them Georges Mathieu’s raging 6m-wide 1959 performance-based work, Homage au Connétable de Bourbon. Boom.
Tickets, dates and tips
Enjoy the artistic transformation and transatlantic interaction from October 15th, 2022 to January 22nd, 2023. A ticket to the Albertina Modern includes access to the exhibitions within.
The first three weeks of Ways of Freedom coincide with the intriguing The Face photo exhibition at the same location.
Autumn and early winter is generally a promising time for top art exhibitions in Vienna. The Albertina, for example, has a Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective, while the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien pays tribute to Helmut Newton.
The Idols and Rivals exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum has a notable lack of abstract expressionism. But it does have plenty of lovely stories around the theme of artistic competition, illustrated with some of the greatest works of European art history.
Should you visit Ways of Freedom during the Advent season, then pop across the road to Karlsplatz square and the Art Advent Christmas market. The stalls are all jury-selected and the handicrafts on display made by the stallholders themselves. Excellent for unique and unusual gifts.
And for a change of century and artistic medium, drop into the 17th-century Karlskirche church on the same square for a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
How to get there
Follow the tips at the bottom of the main Albertina Modern article.
Address: Karlsplatz 5, 1010 Vienna