January 19 – March 2, 2019
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Face Farces, by Austrian artist Arnulf Rainer. As a natural non-conformist, Rainer’s life and career are characterized by a severe distain for established institutions or mainstream thinking, instead exhibiting a proclivity for testing boundaries and following his own unique intuitions. This meant that Rainer also favored those who existed on the margins of society: in his early career, Rainer painted portraits of the mentally ill, finding a fascination with the emotional extremes of their psyches that inevitably revealed themselves in the expressions of their faces. In an effort to unlock this space beyond mainstream reality, Rainer pushed himself to similar emotional extremes, either through physical exhaustion or through the manipulation of what he called “more or less harmless drugs.” Once in such a state, the creative process could begin.
Born out of this practice of self-induced intoxication or reverie is the series Face Farces, in which Rainer uses portraits of himself as foundations for finishing corrections, additions, or obliterations with ink, oil paint, or crayon. With these altered self-portraits, Rainer felt as if he was creating “accentuated self-reproductions but also at the same time causing symbolic changes and developing forms of self-destruction.” Ironically, through this method of over-painting, Rainer believed he found the “Untermensch” within himself. With Face Farces, Rainer aims to arrive at a place of artistic creation that is devoid of pseudo-social influences to ultimately produce authentic art. Rainer states, “It is the willingness to accept eccentric structures that gives me the opportunity to change and intensify the expressions of both my face and my personality. I am not embarrassed to use psychotic talents to develop my artistic oeuvre.”
Arnulf Rainer was born in Baden, Austria in 1929 and has spent most of his life in Vienna. Rainer is known as a pioneer of the Austrian Informel art movement, which he explored from 1949-1951. In addition to founding an artist collective called the Hundsgruppe (Dog Pack) in 1950 and establishing an art academy called the Pintorarium, which was active from 1959 to 1969, Rainer attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, both of which he attended for less than one week. However, Rainer returned to the Academy of Fine Arts in 1981, this time serving as a professor until 1995. He has exhibited internationally-acclaimed retrospectives at the Georges Pompidou in 1984 and at the Guggenheim New York in 1989. Among his other accolades are an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Münster (2004) and the Katholisch-Theologische Privatuniversität Linz (2006). His work is continuously exhibited at the Arnulf Rainer Museum, established in his hometown of Baden in 2009. A special thanks to Brigitte Schenk and the Rainer family for their support of this exhibition.