Arnulf Rainer’s paintings and prints have drawn on a range of figurative and abstract vocabularies. Although not officially a member of the Viennese Actionists, Rainer is often linked to that group because of his similarly performative approach to creating works of art, and the violent and transformative aura of his imagery. As a printmaker, he has experimented with a variety of techniques, completing more than five hundred works to date. While many of his earlier prints were lithographs, he has most recently focused intensely on etching and drypoint.
Deeply influenced by the Parisian Surrealists as a young artist, Rainer favored grotesque and fantastic imagery, and experimented with various methods for accessing the unconscious, including automatist drawing and painting techniques. His later practice of concealing his own photographic self-portrait behind a layer of frenzied abstract markings has been viewed by some critics as an acknowledgment of the unspoken, harsh realities of postwar Austria.
Even in his completely abstract work, as seen here, Rainer’s vigorous strokes seem to block out an invisible underlying presence. To create the forms in Greens and Blue Nest he obsessively marked a printing plate with a densely layered network of etched and drypoint lines, the vigor and tactility of which seem to refer back to the strength and presence of his own hand, arm, and body. Their titles suggest figurative content, imbuing these abstract masses with hints of animation and individual personalities.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Harper Montgomery, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 149.