Critics’ Picks

View of “Hermann J. Painitz: Self Evident,” 2014.

St. Pölten

Hermann J. Painitz

Zeit Kunst Niederösterreich | Museum of Lower Austria
Kulturbezirk 5
March 29 - August 24

The extensive and extraordinary oeuvre of Hermann J. Painitz, which has hardly received attention in the past few decades, now shines remarkably in the Austrian province of St. Pölten. Since the 1960s, Painitz has been known for examining processes of translation between disciplines and for sketching the passage of time in motionless media such as painting and drawing. His art is deeply inspired by the Wiener Gruppe (who were in turn influenced by Wittgenstein) and was friends with the filmmaker Peter Kubelka, Kurt Kren of the Wiener Aktionismus, and the early media artist Marc Adrian, all four of whom influenced one another.

Focusing on works from the 1960s and ’70s, “Self Evident,” which is curated by Alexandra Schantl, homes in on Painitz’s analytic and formalist pictures and sculptures while also offering numerous works on paper, collages, sound works, poems, and theoretical texts—some of the latter written while he was president of the Wiener Secession from 1977 to 1983. Many of his works incorporate numbers or simple monochrome forms (such as spheres, squares, and cubes), which equally bring to mind notations, rhythms, and sequences. This is especially the case with Painitz’s characteristic concentric configurations, which resemble targets and can be found in almost every work on view. In Lebende österreichische Künstler (Living Austrian Artists), 1974, he even mapped out his artistic contemporaries via circles in a self-devised system.

In the 1970s, Painitz developed a system of pictograms and diagrams from which he crafted new visual codes, eventually creating his own alphabets that exchange objects for letters. For instance, in Bread Alphabet, 1975, each letter corresponds to a baked good. In attempting to decipher these works, one notices that they sometimes reflect a series of choices—and indeed a life—behind their constructedness.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.