Hauser and Wirth’s current “Collaborations” exhibition provides visual evidence of how art has profited from the abandon of two of its leading artists of the late modern period.
As a whole series of Kurt Schwitters styled colleges, flawed photographs, and impetuously conceived and coloured drawings demonstrate a schizophrenic relationship between German artist Dieter Roth and Austrian Arnulf Rainer. Likened to Cezanne’s stay with van Gogh in Arles in the late 19th century, in which significant works were born of unsolicited tempters; Roth and Rainer indulged in a decade long creative exchange that was policed by little more than a desire to produce work, as automatically as they might eat and drink.
The collected works are born of a longer relationship associated to Rainer’s involvement in the founding of Galerie Grünangergasse in Vienna, and of their collaborative involvement with the Fluxus Group and Viennese Actionism, during which time everything was conceived of as a Dadaist styled reaction to the art establishment. Here clearly anecdotal drawings, photographs and posters, that at one time littered their studios; torn, tampered with and underfoot, have since been unfolded and framed to stand alongside grainy films of them mildly and more tempestuously performing in front of the camera. Where this exhibition succeeds, is in making available works that vividly demonstrate an associated collaboration that might as easily have never come about.
As their sequence of works are born of a creative burden that was evidently as likely to lead to collapse, as it was to fuel a creative will. And as a consequence this Duchampian styled embrace for free will, makes for a highly charging visual experience. Highlights include Trennzeichnung/ Spilt Drawings, 1975, in which Roth and Rainer appear to apply deferring degrees of pencil on board. Klavier, (Piano oder Flügel)/ Piano (Upright or Grand), 1975 is a scribbled over photography, and Ge’ e M’ a, 1981 – 1983, of black crayon, yellow acrylic and plastic tape, is another work that demonstrates the ebullient spirit of their collaborative verve.