Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flickering Shapes, Grief, Rage; Luc Tuymans at the Wexner Center

"Knowing I am going away past the sharp edge of the world, she knows we need magic, we need magic stronger than words since just words cannot save us. I follow her to the place where the machines hum and draw blood since we need strong magic, need to rip the skin, let blood, and change the body for life, so it know."

-Daphne Gottlieb, "maps and legends"

When you see Luc Tuymans paintings they come up on you slowly, some vaguely impressionist techniques through a new sensibility, and then you start seeing them together and you get the patterns, the juxtaposition, and it all comes together when you see he was a film maker. He doesn't try to replicate stills, none of the photorealism of Marilyn Minter, he captures the velocity of film - establishing shot, close up, jump cut to the same shot from a slightly different angle, and not in an old-Hollywood way, all handheld Super-8 that blew their entire budget on a crane shot that makes that look even more devastating as in the shot - the painting - of a couple dancing at the Governor's Ball that's almost touching until you get the political implications and behind it the Presidential Seal seen so close it's blurry, looking new, looking freshly used. It's like you found a storyboard with half the shots missing and had to piece the story together from the faded, munged drawings.

World War II and the Holocaust deeply haunt his work, and the current specters of nationalism, jingoism and racism, with at least two paintings of gas chambers, one an interior with the showers as black uneven splotches, like sunspots, and the roof almost translucent, the sky seeping into this empty room The other looks like it could just as easily be a summer camp, as a companion to The Architect, which is a grey painting of Albert Speer having a skiing mishap, taken from home film footage of a vacation he was on, maybe the summation of the whole retrospective. Banal, and interesting just for the way he uses color, and then the audience says, "Oh, that architect. Damn."

Tuymans uses color in a very subdued way, but that doesn't mean he uses less of it. He has an amazing eye for seeing all the colors in a suit coat, or a sky at ease, reds and blues figure prominently in everything and most of the time they don't draw attention to themselves, just shoot their acid into the veins in your eye and sink in so you start seeing them three or four paintings later, unless something is done for sheer effect, like the strawberry blonde hair of the paratroopers that makes more apparent they don't have any faces.

If you're within a hundred miles of Columbus before January 3, go see this. You won't regret it.


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