(Orpheus entering Hades)
Alfred Hrdlicka was 80 in 2008. To celebrate, an exhibition called “Sculptures” was mounted on Albertinaplatz (Albertina Square) in Vienna with some of his key works. Funded by Vienna’s Art in the Public Space, and the Galerie Ernst Hilger, the works can still be seen, although they were slated to be moved in September 2008. On our visit in June 2009, we found them fascinating as there seem to be similarities to some of the works of both Michelangelo and Rodin, so I wanted to find out more.
(Orpheus 11, 1963)
Alfred Hrdlicka is an Austrian artist (sculptures, paintings and etchings) who has always favored “dark” subjects, but who has sparked a huge controversy towards the end of his life. In 2008, his new religious work about the Apostles, “Religion, Flesh and Power”, attracted criticism about its homoerotic theme. The exhibition was housed in the museum of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, causing a furor in the Catholic Church.
Alfred Hrdlicka was born in Vienna in 1928. He studied sculpture and painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts from 1946-1957. He held his first exhibition in Vienna in 1960, which created much public interest because of his revolution against abstraction in art, and in 1964 he represented Austria at the 32nd Biennale of Venice. Until 1996 Hrdlicka held special teaching posts at the Academies of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Berlin, as well as at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He lives and works in Vienna.
Human suffering and repression are the central themes in his work, with references to history, violent confrontations (such as war and revolution with all their horrific violence and cruelty), famous personalities from art and cultural history (such as Richard Wagner, Rodin, Titian, Piet Mondrian), and sexuality. His sculptures are often column-type figures, allegories of heroic fighters expressing repression, pain and suffering. Among his other major works are stage sets, for many theatres in Europe.
This square is also known as Remembrance Square and has the “Monument against War and Fascism (1983-91)”, one of the major works of Hrdlicka and a crucial document for the city of Vienna and its history (see picture of the board with information about the square).
These few thought-provoking works strategically placed in Vienna are well worth a visit.