MFA Boston Presents "Body Awareness: Maria Lassnig's Experimental Films"

On view October 15, 2022–April 2, 2023

BOSTON (September 26, 2022)—This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents Body Awareness: Maria Lassnig’s Experimental Films, on view in the Lizbeth and George Krupp Gallery from October 15, 2022 through April 2, 2023. This exhibition celebrates pioneering work on film by the late Austrian artist Maria Lassnig (1919–2014), featuring 16 pieces exploring physical sensation, autobiography, friendship and New York City, where Lassnig lived in the 1970s. In one way or another, all of Lassnig’s films investigate what the artist termed “body awareness,” an ambitious artistic desire to express the complex and often slippery subjective qualities of internal sensory experience and self-perception. Reproductions of ephemera—texts and images from the Maria Lassnig Foundation in Vienna, Austria—give a glimpse into the artist’s practice and document the evolution of her ideas. 

Although best known as a painter, Lassnig turned to film in 1970. Her birth as a filmmaker occurred when her long-standing interest in the influence of technology on everyday life deepened during animation courses she took at the School of Visual Arts when she arrived in New York. From that point on, Lassnig created animations using felt-tip pen drawings, stencils, spray paint and collaged magazine cutouts as well as live-action scenes featuring protagonists and settings drawn from friends and everyday encounters. In her works from the 1970s, physical sensation is often highlighted—stiff chair backs become fluid as the cushioning spills out, and stones are lifted, dropped and slip into the ether—as the body appears and disappears, always changing. In 1974, Lassnig joined the downtown group Women/Artist/Filmmakers Inc., whose members included Carolee Schneemann, Silvianna Goldsmith and Rosalind Schneider. Their collective was an act of artistic solidarity and community and a direct riposte to the marginalization of women in the art world. 

“Maria Lassnig is one of those artists whose work is hard to easily summarize and that is part of what makes it so special,” said Michelle Millar Fisher, Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts. “Both her paintings and films deserve wider audiences. It's a joy to show these film works, a practice she developed while living in the U.S. In concert with her insistence on figuration in painting and her introspective inclinations, her films explored interior emotional experiences. They are a part of her oeuvre that is powerfully resonant with contemporary issues of portraiture in art and wider currents of socially-mediated images.”

The exhibition will include the following films by Lassnig:

  • Encounter, 1970
  • Chairs, 1971
  • Selfportrait, 1971
  • Iris, 1971
  • Shapes, 1972
  • Baroque Statues, 1970–74
  • Palmistry, 1974
  • Art Education, 1976
  • Maria Lassnig Kantate, (The Ballad of Maria Lassnig), 1992 (with Hubert Sielecki)

Films from the estate:

  • Broadway I and II, early 1970s
  • Godfather I, II, and III, 1974
  • Stone Lifting. A Self Portrait in Progress, 1971–75
  • Kopf (Head), mid-1970s
  • Soul Sisters. Hilde, 1972–76
  • Soul Sisters. Alice, 1974/79
  • Soul Sisters. Bärbl, 1974/79

The exhibition is included with general admission. Visitors can also explore Body Awareness: Maria Lassnig’s Experimental Films during MFA Late Nites—the Museum’s popular after-hours event, back for the first time since 2019—taking place from 8 pm to midnight on October 21.

With gratitude to the Maria Lassnig Foundation, the Austrian Film Museum, and sixpackfilm for their kind and warm collaboration which has made this exhibition possible. 

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