Hermann Nitsch “Leviticus”
On view: Friday, August 14th – December 6th, 2015
HVCCA is honored to present Hermann Nitsch’s one-person installation, “Leviticus.” The installation features Nitsch’s “Leviticus,” his seminal book (52 ¾” x 38 ½”) opened to the segment describing the sacrificial services of the High Priest. The surrounding walls feature12 terragraph prints and accompanying extracts from Leviticus in both Hebrew and German. Complementing the prints are paintings and priestly garments.
Terragraph is a printing technique developed by the Israeli printer Har-El and used in the terragraph workshops of Jaffa, Israel. A very strong varnish is used in conjunction with sand from the Judean and Negev desert. By choosing this refined and localized technique, Nitsch takes us back to the actual sites where the book of Leviticus is narrated to the Priestly caste as a manual of the worship laws stipulated by God.
At HVCCA one can see the Biblical text most concerned with the codification of public prayers and rituals. The large format work is opened to the priestly manual describing the performance surrounding the sacrifice which will, on a practical level, supply the priestly class with their food, and on a spiritual level act as a purification vehicle for them so that, in servicing the community, they are free of sin. The omnipresent color red in all the works stands for blood as the essence of life.
Installed in the main exhibition space of the HVCCA, the Hermann Nitsch installation stands in dialogue with ‘LOVE’, which opened in February of this year. The bond formed between God and the Hebrews in that early desert stage was based on a love relationship, proven by salvation from Egyptian enslavement and a parent to child nurturing environment within the dessert where food, water and sustenance are generously supplied. The prayer: ‘Hear Oh Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One’, and “Thou Shalt Love“…are reflected in this extraordinary installation by Nitsch, refracted through a veil of red and etched in sand.
Since 1957, Nitsch has been addressing the intensification of human existence through his ritualistic performance art in “The Orgies Mysteries Theatre”. With more than 100 performances to date, these staged Dionysian performances emulate religious sacrifices: mock crucifixion, blood, entrails, robes, dance and nude participants. Religious tropes are here: the intensity resembles scenes from Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, the carcasses nod towards Rembrandt’s hanging meats. Nitsch mimics the passion plays of the medieval period and harks back to the Biblical and pre-Biblical blood rituals where immersion in the ‘fluid of life’ and the use of animals and animal blood are surrogates for human sacrifice.
His paintings seen here are beautiful abstractions symbolizing what it means to be human. They are graceful violent palimpsests, full of vitality, but also quiet for contemplation, representing a life of originality, courage and dissidence.
Hermann Nitsch (born 29 August 1938), a founder of the Vienna Actionists is one of the most influential artists today.
Hermann Nitsch lives and works at Prinzendorf Castle on the Zaya River, Lower Austria. His works are exhibited in the two Nitsch Museums in Mistelbach and Naples as well as in the Nitsch Foundation in Vienna and in prestigious international museums and galleries such as MoMA, Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum New York, Tate Gallery London, Musée Centre George Pompidou Paris, Nationalgalerie Munich and many more.