The reaction was overwhelming: over 1,000 Austrian artists applied to take part in the show AUSTRIA contemporary. Indeed, it was a lot of work for the curator Christine Humpl and her team. She narrowed the applications down to a selection of fifty artists, whom she then visited in their studios to get a better impression of their work. That led to the sixteen finalists, whose works are now on view at the Essl Museum. Eight years ago, the museum - located in Klosterneuburg near Vienna - initiated the exhibition series emerging artists, which provides the framework for the show that is supported by Deutsche Bank Foundation. Since that time, every two years a group of interesting, previously undiscovered artists is introduced to the wider public.
Painting and video dominate in AUSTRIA contemporary, but also drawing, photography, sculpture, and collage are represented. The two youngest participants are only 25 years old and reflect upon the medium of painting in very different ways. Daniel Domig's figurative paintings feature many layers, painted over one another. In his work, influences of the Junge Wilde, German "Young Wild Painting" from the eighties, merge with elements of Christian iconography. Domig plays with the public's expectations: the paintings on their fragile-seeming wooden constructions are often suspended above the heads of the viewers. On the other hand, Markus Bacher's large-scale gestural paintings sample influences of Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism. Radiant trails of color and dynamic lines collide with monochrome color fields in subtly changing hues.
Older artists who have not as yet received the attention of the exhibition establishment are also present in the show, such as the 1955-born Virgilius Moldovan. The Vienna-based Romanian investigates the classical theme of sculpture par excellence-the human figure. But there's nothing traditional about Moldovan's larger-than-life silicon figures. On the contrary, the nude figures with grotesque grimaces and shapes express the perilous dimensions of sexuality, even disgust with everything corporeal.
The video works of Patricia Reinhart evoke more nostalgic sentiments. The artist, who has also studied acting at the Gustav Mahler Conservatory in Vienna, assembles hundreds of photographs for the composition of her poetic short films. Inspired by Comte de Lautréamont's bible of decadence, his Songs of Maldoror, she mixes the exalted gestures of long forgotten silent movie divas with references to Symbolism and the surreal collages of Max Ernst, creating her very own, magical universe.
Whether it's Michail Michailov, former assistant to the artists' group Gelitin, investigating the conditions of art production in his photographs and video works, or Ingrid Pröller's paintings addressing young urban culture: AUSTRIA contemporary testifies to just how multi-faceted and vital the current Austrian scene truly is.
In the context of the exhibition series "emerging artists"
November 14, 2008 - February 18, 2009
Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg near Vienna