Maria Lassnig

Absolute Tattoo

Maria Lassnig is one of the most radical female artists of our time: her self-portraits depict her with sagging breasts, wearing a pot on her head or even as a dumpling. Maria Lassnig calls her works body-consciousness paintings, and what they show is rarely flattering. Often she is naked or, as in the painting Du oder ich ( You or I ), stands before us with all the defenselessness of old age; her breasts sagging, her stomach wrinkled. At the same time, she is holding two pistols. One is aimed at the viewer, the other at her head. This self-portrait tells of an old dilemma; art is a weapon that can hit its target, but the artist also risks her own life when doing so. Maria Lassnig, who was born in 1919, has one great theme: femininity. For example, there is a strong woman stomping through a city like Godzilla, with the skyscrapers reaching only up to her hip. Or the woman sleeping with a tiger, and it is not clear who is subduing whom. The artist grew up under modest circumstances in Carinthia, Austria. Her mother did not want to raise her illegitimate child initially, so Maria grew up in her grandmother's home. She completed her training as a primary school teacher, and then one day she rode her bicycle to Vienna and applied to the Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1941 she was accepted, but she had to leave after two years, because her approach to color was considered degenerate. Pastel, sometimes slightly loud colors would later become her trademark: the cold bright green, garish yellow, the red she used when she painted her body and felt her skin burning. After the war, Maria Lassnig went to Paris, then in 1968 to New York; later she moved on to Berlin where she has lived for a long time. Maria Lassnig's great breakthrough came much later, in 1997, when her drawings were the high point of Documenta X in Kassel, Germany. The book shows works from Maria Lassnig's more recent period, since 1998, and previously unpublished paintings from 2009.


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