Gerhard Himmer at the Ve.sch

Engaging Gerhard Himmer’s large paintings is as it were to engage color-field work that not just envelop the psyche but additionally tenses its frequency of vibration.  In the large room of the Ve.sch gallery are five large equally scaled vertical paintings.  Three are violet/magenta and white compositions and two are black and white compositions.  In this series Himmer marks his own take of the historical dialogue of allover, color-field, splatter, and performance abstraction with a resonating break.

Exhibition view, Gerhard Himmer, Misprints, Ve.sch, Photo: ©

In consequence of the size of the color space that they define, Himmer’s paintings necessitate a physical response and concurrently depict definite images.  Friction, gravity and flatness as well as the concern of absenting gestural decisions are the imprint on Himmer’s canvases.

Exhibition view, Gerhard Himmer, Misprints, Ve.sch, Photo: ©

Ostensibly, Himmer engages removal.  His compositions are done entirely through a means of application of droplets of turpentine made to trail through a wet painting.  The path the drops take is inherently dictated by gravity as well as a molecular conflict between the two mediums. Due to the dissolvent nature of turpentine to paint, the dripping droplets produce sequences tracing the friction of the extraction in negative shapes.  Himmer manipulates a process not unlike predecessors except that his is an image tuned to resonate at a pitch that Pat Steir may never have understood. A likeminded contemporary is Philip Vanderhyden, though Himmer restricts his palette working in series and handles large scales not just as a nod to the history of the genre but to underscore the tension formed by friction.

Exhibition view, Gerhard Himmer, Misprints, Ve.sch, Photo: ©

Also in Vienna, on view at Café Hummel are a group of Himmer’s paintings. Though the model of café art shows otherwise might imply an absence of criticality, Himmer’s paintings pageant his query with an indifference to their immediate company.  The double negative of the removal of paint and the absence of the artist’s gesture produce the coolness that is untouched by the coffee house scenario.

– Ezara Spangl

Gerhard Himmer ,Misprints
Ve.sch – Verein für Raum und Form in der bildenden Kunst
Schikanedergasse 11, A-1040 Wien
March 14  – April 4, 2014

Gerhard Himmer
Café Hummel
Kunst Im Hummel Vol. 4
January – April 2014
Josefstädter Strasse 66, 1080 Wien


Rita Vitorelli at 21er Raum / 21er Haus

In the 21er Raum at the 21er Haus, Rita Vitorelli has installed paintings and projections confronting painting’s role in the ever broadening expanded cinema plus its embedded romantic constitutions.  Hanging her paintings one after another with sides attached to the wall, Vitorelli activates space and effects change structurally.  Likewise with projectors placed on the floor beaming onto the walls, Vitorelli reduces her interaction with the room to the bare minimum relying on the raw room as the hanging device for her pictures.

21erRaum Rita Vitorelli 2014-03-13 JS (45)Exhibition view, Rita Vitorelli, Volatile Color Rushes through Time, Photo: (c) Belvedere, Vienna

21erRaum Rita Vitorelli 2014-03-13 JS (85)
Exhibition view, Rita Vitorelli, Volatile Color Rushes through Time, Photo: (c) Belvedere, Vienna

Canvases sequentially installed perpendicular to one wall are visible from the front and back sides.  On the former are graphite drawings, painted black lines and brush marks depicting compositions based on 19th century paintings by Thomas Cole.  The latter provides hand written titles each of the referenced Hudson River School paintings by name.  The series, both from Cole and now by Vitorelli illustrate a vision of the maturation of civilization.  Though Vitorelli reproduces the titles and the compositions, she limits shading and depth using only black line and smudges of paint on a white ground. The irony of her gesture points to ideological questions of romanticism and toward uncertain political mistrust.

The line, which recurs in Vitorelli’s physical paintings, projected digital paintings and exhibition placards allude to yet more historical genres.  Loopy gestures describing animals, landscapes and figures alongside non-descriptive marks can be likened to a union of art brut and graphic fauvist renderings.

21erRaum Rita Vitorelli 2014-03-13 JS (99)Exhibition view, Rita Vitorelli, Volatile Color Rushes through Time, Photo: (c) Belvedere, Vienna

Vitorelli is using painting to mark the medium’s history as a means of ideology and to broadly comment on a current climate of questioned government confidence, societal guilt, general uncertainty and a yearn for hope.  Vitorelli merges references and dialogues: multimedia environments, support surface, structuralism, American romanticism and the European outsider. Cognizant, she assumes and mixes this sundry of historical positions but emotes her own way of explanation albeit it is sometimes more a peaceful road out and sometimes one leading deeper into more inquiry or pointing to turmoil.

-Ezara Spangl

Rita Vitorelli
Volatile Color Rushes through Time
21er Haus
Schweizergarten, Arsenalstraße 1
1030 Wien
13. März bis 21. April 2014

Matthias Buch and Katherina Olschbaur at Büro Weltausstellung

Matthias Buch and Katherina Olschbaur’s concurrent solo presentations in Dickicht (thicket) place each painterly practice as likeminded in their noncompetitive socio-political expressions.

© Matthias Buch
© Matthias Buch

Buch presents a row of three paintings hanging across from a mirrored wall.  The architectural element, the big mirror, here supports Buch’s work by providing twice the occasion for the gaze.  Buch’s paintings are dense in layered marks and striking color relationships.  Having at once the prospect of a first hand and secondary view of the work is the chance to relish in these profuse paintings.  There is a hectic density encasing his works that is likable to a social critique analogous to the epic collages of Mark Bradford, but Buch’s works are not as directly traceable to his immediate neighborhood.

© Matthias Buch
© Matthias Buch

Working with oil paint on canvas Buch embraces traditions of academic painting to create self-encasing surfaces.  Washy underpaintings of lines form constructions upon which are built-up shaded and blended shapes.  The initially drawn lines remain visible not eradicating anything in the mesh of working detail.  It is as though Buch fractures his pictorial groundings and scatters the remaining shards.  Using varying, all hand negotiable, brush sizes, Buch layers over and over finishing with extremely thin pen liner size marks.  His open-door policy toward his palette functions like a batik dye.  On top of the neutral grounds and multiplicity of marks and colors, the slim neon highlights become toned down.  There is undoubtedly a likening to hallucination or, more locally apropos, a means for viewers to engage a psychotherapeutic-maze bringing to mind immediate physical confrontations such as street traffic and air quality.

© Katherina Olschbaur
© Katherina Olschbaur

In the other room of the gallery a group of Olschbaur’s paintings present her inquiry of nuance and contour.  With a palette dominated by neutral tones, her application of layering forms evokes a zooming in and out of the subject.  Just when observational elements appear such as folds of paper or fabric, then with a slight adjustment to the view an altogether different perspective is encountered.  With soft though definitive edges, Olschbaur delivers this duality in each singular work with an alluring atmosphere.Subtly, a pairing of Olschbaur’s paintings engage in the political discourse of the Occupy movement in the use of support/surface to literally unhinge the normative power allocation by revealing and stressing the support mechanism.  These two works, hanging together on one wall of the gallery, are arguably the most referential in their depiction of a still-life narrative. Olschbaur broadens the context of her work as she manipulates observational painting to envelope minimalist and conceptual abstraction.

© Katherina Olschbaur
© Katherina Olschbaur

Painting the stretcher bars that stand behind the canvas, she brings the support to the foreground.  This is echoed by the visible, and painted, element of the stretcher bars seen through the shaped hole on the surface.  A space is depicted, it looks like a sort of shelf or closet, which is freed from nostalgia and comes into a present moment as the construction is it’s own shape.  The amalgamation of the structure and mode of delivery joins in a third wave feminist mode of application.  Cutting the canvas, Olschbaur’s lines take physical form as this device of negative space turns into a compositional edifice and obfuscates the authority of the canvas.  The only critique Olschbaur may take away is that hers are small steps as she nears a new extreme.  In the piece that is dominated by its cutout form so much that it allows the canvas to fold back over its own stretcher, Olschbaur relies on a modernist table-top-like composition to permit for performed aggression.

Layering and application of brush strokes act in both Buch and Olschbaur’s works with likening importance.  Duality also runs parallel in each artist’s work.  In Buch’s paintings urgency and exuberant engagement are entwined with passivity and an openness of mind. Olschbaur’s paintings doubly change focus while alluding to immeasurable significance.

– Ezara Spangl

Matthias Buch
Katherina Olschbaur
im Rahmen der Ausstellungsreihe DIN 55943 – international young painting positions
Eröffnung: 26. Juli 2013 19:00 Uhr
Büro Weltausstellung
Praterstraße 42 / Stiege 1 / Mezzanin
1020 Wien

Rainer Spangl at Song Song, Vienna

Rainer Spangl’s exhibition, Trata at Song Song manifests two conceptual frameworks.  One, pictorial images of interior architecture and the other depictions of a historical mural all made with staccato brush marks of singular colors on monochrome grounds.  In each painting, in each grouping of images and also in the combined hanging, Spangl presents institutional questions within idioms of visual pleasure.

The installation of the paintings, some work hung high close to the corners and ceilings and others low nearing the floor, ensures a relational first read of the interaction of the painted monochrome grounds.  Lofted vibrant blue grounds exude from above, a pale taupe and a smaller red piece beam at eye level and from the floor up circling the space are the largest sequential fields of rose, brown, grey, and green.  The ensemble produces simultaneously resonating frequencies to be experienced differently at every point within the gallery walls.

Two themes are present in this show.  Four paintings, those that are hung high and close to the room’s architectural corners have bright blue grounds on which are rendered images of interior spaces.  These are painted from observational studies made by Spangl of corners in the Room 7 of the Art History Museum of Vienna.  Working in the museum, Spangl made pen and paper drawings of the four corners of the monumental room.  The museum itself is the majestic artifact from the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I and today functions to present its historical collection.  The room that Spangl chose for his paintings carries the additional history of being the location in which the Third Reich celebrated the Anschluss of 1938.  By working from observation, Spangl portrays the room’s three dimentional space.  In using his drawings as the source material of paintings, Spangl applies a new take on pointillist rendering giving shape to the diagonals and shadows of the space through movements and placements of marks.  The paintings of the art museum’s architecture are defined by Spangl’s marks depicting the seam joinings of walls, the textile details of the walls and the woodworked moldings and doorframes.  The blue color that Spangl applies for the ground color relates to the color of the blue silk wallcovering of the actual room, likewise the beige color of the foreground marks references a Tiepolo painting that is on view in the actual room of the museum, but not included in the depiction in Spangl’s paintings.

In the four largest paintings are images of the same picture but each painting has its own color ground and image color.  Hanging just at the floor height, these paintings depict women rendered flat, barely more than one-point perspective. The women figures have their heads turned, all facing their left and all wearing full length dresses and holding hands with crossed arms.  The figures and their dresses take most of the picture plane, but just above their heads are visible leaves and flowers just as on the ground, below the women’s bare feet are blades of grass.  These paintings are based on Spangl’s studies of a photographic reproduction of a piece of a mural from a tomb in Ruvo, Italy.  The tomb mural, made in 400 BC when Italy was a Greek territory, illustrates women called Thiads who worshiped Dionysus and engaged in a dance called ‘trata’.  The fragment of the mural is in the collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.  Spangl came upon a reproduction of the mural fragment in a catalog printed in the 70s by the museum.  In his paintings, he used colors from the catalog print for his choices in the paintings.  In placing the paintings of the dancing figures around the room, Spangl repeats the effect of the circling tomb dance.  As in his other pieces, Spangl applies hundreds of small brush marks developing exceedingly optically engaging image within the painting.

Alluding to the embracing nature of color field abstraction, Spangl uses the placement of his monochrome ground paintings to build a space functioning through color interactions.  His brushwork gives the paintings the quality of ink fluidity relating the paintings to their drawing sources, namely of the observational studies of locations and of flat printed reproductions.  In bringing images of the museum to an outside location and in presenting the images of the museum without any art within the picture plane, Spangl points out a  question of the role and use of the museum and of the tradition it memorializes.  The meditation on the empty corners is possibly a way of trying to find a peace with the institution, which he concurrently values and questions.  The flatness of the figures in the repeated image of the dancers brings up the tradition of western picture making and pre-Christian religious painting practices.  The details of the paintings reveal Spangl’s joy of the medium as he embellishes the flora and fauna and plays with the placement of the feet and hands of the figures between the paintings.   The geometric shapes made of large groupings of marks also echo abstract practices in the movement of the forms across the canvas.

Song Song, Praterstrasse 11 A-1020 Vienna

20.09 – 27.10.12

– Ezara Spangl

on Christoph Bruckner at the Ve.Sch

© Christoph Bruckner
,o.T.’, 2011, Linoldruck, 100 x 90 cm
courtesy of the Ve.Sch

In “Broken Play” at the Ve.Sch, Christoph Bruckner’s work as curated by Franz Zar incites a conversation on quantifiable merit and the operation of an imbedded artist persona.  Pointedly hanging pieces with ample white wall and selectively placing works on the floor, as is the case of DVD as a Fireplace and Untitled, a piece of MDF board, the installation treats the space with a presently normative approach of directing constructions to generate concentrated reflection on work.  Within which, Bruckner applies irony by subverting the expectations of abstraction and highlighting its potential as a means of representation.

One large hanging work is composed of Rorschach-like yellow stains made of urine.  The urine, applied evenly across the canvas makes a uniform composition and surface.  This flippant attachment to formal abstraction is likewise evident in a single linocut, Untitled, 2011.  Here Bruckner uses a black and white print to reproduce the appearance of his floorboards marked after heavy use under the feet of a chair.  The image in the linocut shows markings that could also result through a nonrepresentational process-based abstraction composed of pulls and removals.  In that Bruckner does not craft the forms of his work, he applies quotations entailing a direct likeness to abstraction.  Bruckner simultaneously undermines deep-seated notions of abstraction all the while crediting pure composition with value.  Thereby intending for his imagery to be seen through the perception of abstraction while conveying a dissent of that structure.

“Broken Play,” imparts Bruckner’s practice as an outgrowth of a narrative of his persona.  Evidenced by the print off his own floor, in the treatment of all of his single unmatched socks, in a portion of flooring from his apartment, as well as in works not directly marked as being from Bruckner’s life per se, but eliciting a sense of his type of existence.  The latter includes such works as Untitled, made of two white ceramic bowls whose surfaces are covered in stainless steel silverware marks after having long functioned as eating vessels.  Also, hanging on a wall is a plaid cotton shirt stretched with arms draping on the sides.  These works refer to the visual systems of abstraction which he plays off and also proves the result of his personal narrative and practice of employing readymades.

Beyond the script of singularly being an art maker, Bruckner shows that he is the causation of his work.  Effectively, he inspires his own practice as his very own existence results in the found objects that he utilizes.  By no means the first or last artist to analyze his/her own existence for the means of art production, Bruckner’s work strikingly bears no signs of grandeur.  His manner is purposely succinct and shows little trace of rigor or strictness.  In this way, Bruckner successfully frames the individuality of his existence as a metaphor of a collective psyche.

Underscoring the understated, Bruckner careful maintains a low frequency range of colors.  The DVD of the blazing fire comes across dulled through a TV monitor just as the use of blood-warming foods like goulash and curry are only evidenced in left over light reddish stains on canvas.  Aptly titled, “Broken Play” uses the exhibition rooms like a theatrical stage focusing on the leading role, namely that of Bruckner playing himself.

– Ezara Spangl

Ve.Sch – Verein für Raum und Form in der bildenden Kunst

17.02.2012 – 09.03.2012