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POMERANZ COLLECTION

OTTO MUEHL

Ohne Titel, Gesichtsprofil
1986
Oil on canvas
150 x 130 cm
Inv. Nr. 104
Photo: © VBK, Wien, 2011

Born in 1925 in Grodnau, Austria
Lives and works in Faro, Portugal 

Otto Muehl is a major member and a co-founder of the iconoclast movement of Viennese Actionism, together with Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. He is primarily known for the films and photographs of his actions from the sixties, centred on the destruction of classical painting and a radical mise-en-scène of the body. Despite his will to free the easel painting from its frame, he continued to practice it all through his carrier, but always in a critical way, as in the Pop style paintings of political leaders from the series Persönlichkeiten, made between 1967 and 1978. Muehl uses Pop aesthetics in an exaggerated and derisive way in order to attack the most celebrated and powerful figures of the period, like Charles de Gaulle or Mao. As he said: “What I have tried to do here using the means of painting is to portray aspects of human cruelty and perfidy that could not be portrayed in the form of an action.” Ohne Titel, Gesichtsprofil (Untitled, Face in Profile), painted about twenty years later, stands out by the simplicity and the purity of the painting. Indeed, Muehl gave different meanings to painting, ranging from its ability to illustrate critical ideas to its use as a tool to study the techniques of the Old Masters, but also to the simple playfulness of the act of painting.