Anna McNay

Review of Viennese Season: Actionism at Richard Saltoun and Austin/Desmond Fine Art


Viennese Season: Actionism

Richard Saltoun, London

7 March – 4 April 2014


Austin/Desmond Fine Art

6 March – 4 April 2014

Suggestive, affective, nauseating.
How to respond but with a wince, looking quickly away, perhaps a shudder right through
to your groin, and then looking back to check whether what you thought you saw,
really was what you saw? In 1960s Vienna, four men began producing art like
never before. Along with body art, performance art and Fluxus elsewhere, they
sought to take painting away from the constraints of the canvas – to use the
body as both brush and canvas, to test its limits, to use it as raw material,
raw flesh, to be butchered and reconstituted in performances or aktions, a full-on rejection of
object-based or commodifiable art forms. Their wilfully transgressive and
violently sensational works, sometimes performed for an audience, at other
times for the camera, are looked on today as a body of work labelled as
Viennese Actionism, and this joint exposé by Richard Saltoun and Austin/Desmond
Fine Art constitutes the first major survey of the works in the UK.

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