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Marc Adrian

It was in the mid-1950s that Marc Adrian first raised his independent artistic voice in Vienna’s postwar avant-garde milieu, which was characterized by linguistic experimentation, gestural abstraction and early forms of Viennese Actionism. In the existentialist, bohemian circles of Vienna’s “Art Club”—a loose association of artists which included proponents of abstraction as well as both figurative and late-surrealist modernism—and as a pupil of sculptor Fritz Wotruba, Adrian became acquainted with the problematic issues of the modern conception of sculpture as it developed away from figuration and toward abstraction. Early on, however, he had begun to leave behind its static concepts of space in favor of the idea of a flowing, free, moving spatial cluster. Those years saw Adrian begin experimenting with rocking stones, sculptural leap-perspectives and mobiles, and working on verre églomisé pictures with special optical effects. In doing so, his interest was always in the problems involved in a semantics of seeing. Central to their artistic examination, to Adrian’s mind, were both the motif of a time-space dissolution of the stasis inherent in the classical conception of sculpture and concepts of space-claiming motion, and/or the realization of optically simulated or actually occurring motion sequences in the space of the two-dimensional image.

With their references to op-art and kinetic art, as well as to geometric abstraction, Adrian’s works occupied a special position within the Viennese avant-garde of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his aesthetic stance, he was closer to groups such as the Paris-based “Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel” (GRAV), Düsseldorf’s ZERO group or the early experimental designs of a Nicolaus Schoeffer than to the less-concrete Viennese neo-abstract artists. But even so, Adrian shared with the Viennese scene—certainly in deliberate contrast to his international colleagues interested in free kinetic objects—a position of distance from the ideas of aesthetic autonomy inherent in modernism, as well as skepticism toward language in the tradition of Fritz Mauthner and Ludwig Wittgenstein and an interest in crossing synaesthetic boundaries. “Motion can be used artistically in order to structure the contents of consciousness,” wrote Marc Adrian in his catalog essay for the three-country biennial trigon 67 in Graz. And later on he did, in fact, proceed to demonstrate the sense of touch as a primordial form of vision in places including a black room.

Adrian also engaged in constant experimentation with a multitude of artistic media (ranging to include even music and literature) in a way that was absurdly expressionist, also being interested in improvisational play with melodic and linguistic material. With his over 30 film works, Marc Adrian numbers among the central stances in European experimental film, with his early analytical films—also developed according to abstract analyses of form and motion, which structural consequences dealt critically with motifs of prewar modernism—maintaining aesthetic distance from the works of his Viennese colleagues in the same way as did his works as a visual artist. In Vienna, quite some time was to pass before Adrian would enjoy a degree of recognition for this latter field of activity equal to that which he had always received for his work as an avant-garde film maker. Only in the 1980s—with the emergence of new phenomena of geometric abstraction and of new light and media works—did his oeuvre once again meet with the interest of other artists (such as Franz Graf, for example).

 

G.S.

1930, Wien / AT – 2008, Wien / AT

Please follow this link for a selected bibliography available at the ERSTE Foundation Library
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