Indepth Arts News: |
"Gustav Metzger: History History"
2005-05-10 until 2005-08-28
In an extensive exhibition, the Generali Foundation will show Gustav Metzger’s
importance as an artist and activist from the 1960s to the present.
Gustav Metzger, who was born in Nuremberg in 1926 and now lives in London, is an
enigmatic figure. He has co nt inually provided important impetus as an artist and
also as an initiator and political act ivist. This retrospective provides the first opportunity
in Austria—and, in this comprehensive form, the first internationally—to encounter his
versatile involvement and largely unknown oeuvre. It extends from the early manifestos
and Lecture/Demonstrat ions to his political engagement, his critique of the art industry,
through to the work group of Historic Photographs and his current works with the
In 1959, Gustav Metzger used political and ecological issues, such as the nuclear arms
race and the increasing environmental destruction, as points of departure for the
development of his co ncept of Auto-Destructive Art . In his first manifesto, he defined this
as a „form of public art for industrial societies“, which thematizes the destructive potential
of the 20th century.
Transformation processes are at the center of Gustav Metzger’s works: sculptures that
fall to pieces or erode, canvases corroded by acid, rubbish in trash bags, or car exhaust
in acrylic glass containers. The materials used by Metzger originate exclusively from the
industrial context and machine production. Their process -oriented and self-destructive
use is meant as an attack on capitalist values and the art market. These processes become
visible, among other ways, in his experiments with liquid crystals. His psychedelic Liquid
Crystal Projections , which he also presented at a concert of the band The Cream in
London, illustrate Metzger’s concept of Auto -Creative Art.
The Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS), which he initiated in London in 1966, clearly
showed that the theme of destruction was also important for other artists of his generation.
At this legendary meet ing of artists, Metzger enabled the first international appearance of
the Viennese Actionists. Additio nally, he also influenced the vocabulary of pop culture:
Pete Townshend, the famous "guitar trasher” of the rock band The Who, called Metzger
Already in the 1970s, Metzger was concerned with problems of environmental pollution
and the progressing development of computer technology. In 1974 he refused to
participate in the exhibition Art into Society – Society into Art and instead, in the exhibition
catalogue called for a three-year „art strike ”. In 1981 he organized, together with Cordula
Frowein and Klaus Staeck, a counter -exhibition to the show Westkunst in Cologne and
protested against the version of contemporary art propagated there.
Gustav Metzger was also involved to the same extent as his artistic work in theoretical
lectures, symposia, and political forums. Also of importance is his confrontation with
nazism, through whose repercussions Metzger lost a large part of his family.
Gustav Metzger was always interested in daily papers and their design as a sign of reality
and also a mirror and storage medium for history. In his Historic Photographs , a workgroup
that was created in the second half of the 1990s, he asks the question of how we deal with
human catastrophes documented in media images. By problematizing the visibility of these
images, he lays bare their ambivalent position between voyeurism, trivialization,
Curator: Sabine Breitwieser
Assistant Curator, exhibition coordinator : Cosima Rainer