Provocative. Poignant. Polychrome: Austrian Pop Art from Kogelnik to Zdrahal

September 21 – October 20, 2023

Presented in cooperation with Leopold Fine Arts, the autumn exhibition of Galerie Ruberl addresses the subject of Pop Art in Austria. Emerging first in Britain and then the USA, protagonists of Pop Art, such as Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein, became the movement’s most important representatives. They sought to democratize art, raising everyday and consumer culture to new and greater heights.

Pop Art was not invented in America, although there is no doubt that New York was the center of art in the post-war period. It was rather an international movement that influenced artists worldwide. As an examination of the formal language of mainstream and consumer culture, Pop Art conveyed a lightness of being and introduced an era of progress and new visions. With its ties to modern life, this art was marked by strident chromaticity and emphasis on surfaces and contours in a manner reminiscent of neon signs, advertising and commonplace objects. Thus it is not surprising that the artistic origins of both Andy Warhol and Ernst Zdrahal are found in advertising art.

The expansion of the concept of art to include aspects of everyday life reflected not only the desires and longings of a new generation but also provided criticism of social conditions, challenged the middle-class sense of morals and values, and objectified the female body. The prevailing interest in the human body and the art of the post-war decades in Austria combined with the traditions of the Wiener Werkstätte, which in the early 20th century had united art and everyday life, thus creating fertile soil for the development of Austrian Pop Art in the 1960s and 1970s.

Pop Art posed in an intelligent manner the question of what art really was and was capable of becoming and doing. The response to that question was a boom in exhibition activity and a growth in art appreciation that never had been seen before. The 1960s witnessed a growing interest in the interconnections between life and art.

The exhibition Provocative. Poignant. Polychrome: Austrian Pop Art from Kogelnik to Zdrahal brings together outstanding Pop-Art works by artists from Austria and offers the visitor a unique opportunity to explore the development of this movement from an Austrian point of view and to discover a wide range of artistic perspectives. It includes works by artists such as Kiki Kogelnik, Robert Hammerstiel, Otto Muehl and Ernst Zdrahal, all of whom played a decisive role in the development and propagation of this art movement in Austria.