Dieter Roth and Arnulf Rainer: Collaborations, Hauser & Wirth, London

Roth and Rainer together have worked in a variety of different media to create different products, including live performances, drawings and sound works. This new and exciting exhibition, running until the 3 May at Hauser & Wirth, focuses on a large group of works on paper, unveiling some of Roth’s previously unseen work. A selection of the artists’ major film works is also on display.

The group of almost eighty works on paper reveals an artistic dialog that is not full of the usual harmonious nature that is characteristic of art collaborations, but of creative tension. These works show two egos of the artists battling of ultimate victory with in the creative process.

Working without inhibitions, both artists were able to push past their individual boundaries and unleash their creative potential. The unique imperative within Roth and Rainer’s collaboration is that the work should be produced in complete freedom, with an absence of self-censorship and no social restrictions. One would pose a challenge to the other, thus setting off a highly energetic back and forth of increasingly incendiary reactions. The resulting works are impulsive, comical and intense.

Their film works present improvised exchanges, a battle of ego. Roth and Rainer perform a slapstick duel in Duell im Schloss (Duel in the Castle, 1976), then they endlessly prepare to act out a stunt involving a gymnast’s bar. The works on paper display a similar childlike playfulness: crude faces, beards and bottle-cap spectacles are scrawled on the surfaces of joint photographic portraits of the two artists.

Both Roth and Rainer were key figures in the European Avant-grade movements in the 1960s and when the pair met, they began to collaborate with each other. Rainer was already established in the cultural scenes of Austria and Roth, who was a frequent visitor to Vienna was quickly accepted into Galerie Grüangergasse, which Rainer was linked to by artist acquaintance. Creating work in the wake of Fluxus and Viennese Actionism, the collaborative projects of Roth and Rainer are centred around process, bodily action and the irreverence towards the artistic establishment.

Drawing was central to this collaboration as the immediacy of the medium lent itself to the spontaneous acts of creations and produced an instant result. Their ideas were often conceived and executed on the spot and usually an entire series of work would be produced in a single session. Both the artists drawing techniques vary greatly, from Roth’s heavy gestural marks to Rainers’ short dark, lines.

In Trennzeichnung (Split Drawing, 1975), displayed in Misch – und Trennkunst exhibition in 1975, the drawing is literally separated into two halves and the two artists’ input can be directly compared as one mimics the other, tracing horizontal lines from left to right. This exhibition was the the first of Roth and Rainers first collaboration at Galerie Grüangergasse at it is the terminology that the two artists themselves used to describe their practice, a process of ‘Mixed and separate Art’.

Dieter Roth, Arnulf Rainer – Collaborations on display until 3 May, Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET

More information about the exhibition can be found here:

1. Ma mit dem Ki (Ma with the Ki), (1981—1983) Felt pen, grease pencil, ink and acrylic on collage on handmade paper, 2 panels. Courtsey of Hauser & Wirth