Gerhard Rühm was born in Vienna, Austria in 1930. He studied piano and composition at the University (then State Academy) of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, then privately twelve-tone composition with Josef Matthias Hauer. In 1952 he traveled to Lebanon and became involved with oriental music. Rühm is a co-founder of the Vienna Group (with Friedrich Achleitner, H. C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer and Oswald Wiener). From 1972 to 1996 he held a professorship at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg. From 1978 to 1982 he was president of the Graz Authors' Assembly. His work has been honored with numerous awards. He received the Austrian Prize of Appreciation for Literature in 1976, the City of Vienna Prize for Literature in 1984, the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature in 1991, the Medal of Honor of the Federal Capital of Vienna in 1991, the Alice Salomon Poetics Prize in 2007, the Golden Decoration of Honor for Services to the State of Vienna in 2007, an honorary doctorate from the University of Cologne in 2010, the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art in 2013, the City of Vienna Prize for Fine Arts in 2014, and the Karl Sczuka Prize in 2015. He has been a member of the Freie Akademie der Künste Hamburg since 1978. Gerhard Rühm lives in Cologne.
Rühm founded the "Wiener Gruppe" (1954-60) together with Friedrich Achleitner, H. C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer, and Oswald Wiener. The group’s radical language experiments are among the most important literary developments of the postwar era. The group organized some of its first happenings and actions in Austria around 1958, thus contributing decisively to the origin of Actionism. The group’s radicalism also created difficulties with publishers and problems with state authorities.
Rühm relocated to Germany in 1964 and from 1972-1995 taught graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Art in Hamburg. Gerhard Rühm’s works were shown at numerous retrospectives, including the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna in 1981. Rühm was also represented at the Documentas 6 and 8 in Kassel. His work was honored in 1991 with the Austrian State Grand Prize for Literature, awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Art. Further exhibitions of the "Vienna Group" were presented at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and at the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna in 1998.
Even in his first "lautgedichte" of the 1950s, Rühm worked in the border area of different artistic disciplines. He referred to his creations as "inter-medial works," and developed his poetry further in the direction of both fine art and music. Rühm concentrates especially on the themes of sexuality and eroticism. His "bildbeschreibungen" (1954) present a visual dialogue between pictures and texts. In their use of found pictures they reflect on the concept of poetic montage within a visual association. In his "Typocollagen," realized between 1955 and 1963, Rühm newly recombined letters from newspapers, transforming, as it were, these graphic elements into a new musical or even poetic species, presented in a gesture conceived as much visually as conceptually. Through over-paintings Rühm also refashioned the German grammar into a poem, e. g., in "l’essentiel de la grammaire" (1962). (Monika Vykoukal)
Gerhard Rühm was a member of the “Wiener Gruppe,” founded in 1952, along with Friedrich Achleitner, H.C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer, and Oswald Wiener. Given the radicalism of their writing, works of art, and happenings, the group is considered to be the first avant-garde movement in Austria. Rühm addresses language and writing in a variety of ways, as in phonetic poetry or in his typocollages made out of fragments of newspaper prints. These works are based on a radical analysis and critique of language, which is, in turn, an analysis and a critique of the picture. In “l’essentiel de la grammaire” Rühm sets up a new system consisting of instructions for the German language, which govern anyone using this language. Rühm utterly ignores the rules of language and paints over the dry grammar table, reserving words that end up as something lyrical and poetic. In his “reduced newspaper” of the same year, Rühm painted over the title pages of newspapers on six consecutive days, reserving only the word “und (and).” By reducing the daily paper to this additive conjunction, or rather by thus emphasizing it, Rühm makes a striking statement about the inflationary excesses of information in the dailies. (Sabine Breitwieser/Nadja Wiesener)