Maria Lassnig Expressions On Display at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel.
Located on East 3rd Street in the downtown LA Arts District, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is an international gallery showcasing contemporary art. This industrial gem with its exposed brick, cathedral archways, and heavy steel doors was once the Globe Mills Complex in the early 1900s. Three main gallery spaces that in the past might’ve been used to store wheat or grain, now feature tall glass doors protecting white walls and polished concrete floors. Rotating exhibitions from artists leading the conversation in modern art grace the walls of these galleries. Between them is an open-air courtyard featuring large-scale sculptures, a public garden and murals for visitors to enjoy as they come and go. The one and only ARTBOOK store is located inside the museum serving as a supplemental laboratory for patrons to access new and obscure reading materials on 20th century art. As the exhibitions rotate so do the books promoting black listed texts, independent press ledgers, and foreign catalogues. Overall the museum evokes that distinctive flavor commonly associated with downtown—hip, artsy, and cool. Another bonus about HWS is that it is free to the public.
Currently on display at HWS is “Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey, 1950-2007.” The retrospective spans Lassnig’s entire career featuring her early abstract works to her famous self-portraits highlighting her “body consciousness” theory. Studying the structured, geometric shapes in her early work, one sees how she progressed as an artist, moving from inanimate to animate objects and ultimately herself as the subject. Heavily inspired by the Expressionism movement, the Austrian born artist was known for her avant-garde use of color and manipulation of the body to communicate emotion.
Much like Picasso, Lassnig’s study of the human form is distorted, challenging our normative concepts of shape. In “Generational Kick/Generation Problems II,” my eye scans for the recognizable. Two hands are clasped together holding a mouth bearing teeth while feet and arms desperately try to come through the paint—reaching for the familiar. It’s as if the body parts are stretching out to the viewer begging to be seen— shouting out “Hey! It's me! You know me! You have me and the guy gazing next to you has me, too! “
I was surprised to see that Lassnig primarily used oil-based paints. The application—the brush strokes seem so light and the pastel colors so muted that from far away I easily mistook the pieces for watercolors. Because the work is emotive and challenging, I can’t help but attach (or project) this melancholy feeling on to each piece. Even the more vibrant colorful works seem to convey a dis-ease being disguised as playful whimsy.
As a Maria Lassnig fan, I believe the exhibition is truly representative of the breadth of her artistic career, although I might have liked to see more of her iconic pieces included. It was just in the spring of 2014 that Lassnig passed away leaving her work to speak for her. Up for viewing until the end of December 2016, it is well worth a visit not only for the Maria Lassnig exhibit but also to experience HWS first hand.