Otto Muehl

Otto Muehl, Selected Works, 2004 - 2010

Otto Muehl, Selected Works, 2004 - 2010

Otto Muehl (b. 1925, Austria) lives and works in Portugal. He is one of the most radical artists of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, with Hermann Nitsch, Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, he co-founded the Viennese Actionist Group. Their practice was characterised by the expressive and performative use of the body, objectified and subjected to ritualistic methods of extreme physical abuse, often with sexual connotations. Muehl’s work later shifted from direct confrontation with sexual taboos towards an analysis of behaviour and action as a foundation for the achievement of an alternative society.

In the 1970s he initiated Aktions-Analytische Organisation, a community of people concerned with the utopian unification of art and life outside mainstream society. Explicitly provocative and politically charged in nature, many of Muehl’s early actions can also be regarded as expanding the language of painting through the expressive use of various fluids such as paint, bodily liquids and food in relation to the body. But throughout his career, traditional painterly practice has played a critical role as a means of expressing human obsession and rejecting bourgeois ideology.

For Touched, Muehl presented a series of paintings that applied acid colours in expressive gestures (harking back to the techniques used in his early action painting). The paintings were populated by a cartoon-like set of characters, for instance Untitled 2007, which confronted the viewer with a stark female figure. In other works, animals – most notably the shark – were used to relate allegorically to a world obsessed with money. The shark assumed multiple meanings, ranging from a symbol of fear to a representation of total freedom from social restraint.

The simple and expressive power of these late works exemplify Muehl’s lifelong preoccupation with painting, while also demonstrating aspects of chance and physical action.

Otto Muehl at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Selected Works, 2004 - 2010
Acrylic on canvas
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool