From British daily The Morning Star:
Art isn’t easy
(Monday 02 June 2008)
EXHIBITION: Maria Lassnig
Serpentine Gallery, London W2
CHRISTINE LINDEY is confronted by Austrian artist Maria Lassnig‘s bold and expressive canvases.
Art is not always easy to look at. Some artists confront the complexities, embarrassments, injustices and sheer horrors of life. Maria Lassnig is one of those artists.
The often uneasy relations between women and men, sensory perception from inside the body and the difficulty of communicating with others are Lassnig’s themes. In short, sex, conflict, communication and power.
She introduces herself with characteristic candour. The first painting that you see in her Serpentine Gallery exhibition is You or Me (2005), a self-portrait.
Like a cowboy, she confronts you, holding two guns and staring straight at you. But she is in her mid-eighties and naked, with one gun pointing at you and the other points at her own head. …
But a wry humour and wit in some works lighten the tone. This comes out particularly in her animated films, which she began in the 1970s at a time when it was an odd and brave thing for an artist to work in two such very different modes.
In Art Education (1976), she animated Michelangelo‘s iconic image of the Creation of Adam. Adam repeatedly asks God to give him a different body. God obliges. Stripes? No problem. Spots? Adam becomes leopard-like. More hair? he becomes shaggy as a dog.
“Why am I white? Make me black,” Adam demands. “No,” replies God. “There are no blacks in the Bible.” …
Born in Austria in 1919, Lassnig studied art during World War II when modernism was banned. She discovered the freedom of surrealism and expressionism on a scholarship to Paris in 1951. She spent most of the 1960s there, moving to New York in the 1970s.
It was not easy to be a woman artist in the profoundly sexist art worlds of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, in which women were expected to fulfil supportive roles of student, muse, handmaiden, mistress or model rather than that of artist. To be a figurative painter at that time was to be doubly marginalised by the critical establishment.
See also here.
This video from Austria includes work by Maria Lassnig.