Körperzeichen III

September 22 - November 30, 2022

Body Signs III

Irene Andessner Renate Bertlmann Maria Lassnig
Arnulf Rainer
Chris Reinecke

Opening: September 22, 2022, 6pm

How do artists deal with their own bodies and the bodies of others? How do they set a sign using the body? Do they treat the body itself as a sign? Or do they draw with the body?

In the 1970s, the avant-garde art scene discovered the human body as a medium of expression. Performance and body art emerged in the United States, South America, Japan, and Europe. The exhibition Body Signs III is dedicated to the artistic endeavor of expressing one’s own or other people’s bodies in art, between the years 1968 and 1998, on the basis of five different viewpoints.


In Austria, Arnulf Rainer was one of the early pioneers of body art. In the 1970s, he first created his so-called Body Poses and Face Farces, drawing over photographs of his grimacing face and posed body with oil, colored pencil, or chalk. Distortions and deformations intensify and change the expression of the original beyond recognition in a painterly way.


In the 1980s, Rainer turned away from the direct representation of his body. He devoted himself to gestural paintings that indirectly contained physical expression because the artist’s entire body was involved in creating them. Using sweeping gestures, Rainer produced his so-called Finger Paintings. They took him back to the beginning of his career – to Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism, which were influential for the emergence of body art.


Feminist artists in particular critically questioned the expectations of the female body, deconstructed the body as a whole, and ironized gender stereotypes.

As early as the 1960s, the German artist Chris Reinecke participated in initiatives and performances. As a member of the Düsseldorf LIDL group, which included Jörg Immendorff, she explored clothing and body wrappings. In her Packung series (1968), Reinecke interpreted packaging as skin surfaces. In doing so, she regarded skin as an enclosing barrier. At the same time, she referred to the increasing consumer society of the 1960s, which, in addition to elaborate packaging, also used the sexualized female body for advertising purposes.


Maria Lassnig’s graphic work of the late 1960s is dominated by body fragments. Human bodies, abstracted beyond recognition, rest on a pillow; a plant reminiscent of a flower or mushroom grows into the sky. Lassnig takes physical wholeness apart without putting it back together. Her bodies are fragmented into individual, concentrated signs that seem far removed from the logic of femininity and masculinity.

Renate Bertlmann also used the fragmented body, distorted to the point of bizarreness, in her work. In one of her drawings, an udder and a heart blend into each other, creating a fusion of love, nourishment, and disgust. The artist always approached the human body, ideals of beauty, and the art establishment in an ironic way. Thus she also satirized the cult of genius that often surrounds male artists with an idiosyncratic self-portrait.


Irene Andessner is a tireless explorer of her own face. In numerous self-portraits and historical staging reminiscent of Cindy Sherman’s feminist photography, Andessner devoted herself to the search for identity. How can we make a mark on the self? How can we define our identity? The artist addressed these issues in a series of Polaroids from the 1990s, which Body Signs III now presents in an exhibition for the first time. The series shows the ambivalence towards one’s own identity: present and yet always elusive, indistinct and blurred.


In 2017 and 2018, Galerie Ruberl already hosted two exhibitions entitled Body Signs and Body Signs II, featuring works by Jürgen Klauke, Trude Fleischmann, Günter Brus, and many others. Based on Bernhard Bürgi’s prominent exhibition Körperzeichen – Österreich (Body Signs – Austria) from 1982, Body Signs III continues his project. It includes other female artists such as Chris Reinecke, Irene Andessner, Maria Lassnig, and Renate Bertlmann, who reveal the multifaceted and international nature of the artistic body and its signs.

(Text: Johanna Luisa Müller, Translation: Andrea Schellner)